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NFL Week 12: Nine takeaways from Thanksgiving Day

Week 12 started off with three games on Thanksgiving Day. Here are some of our big takeaways from today's triple header:

»Vikings quarterback Case Keenum has never displayed better field vision. Whispers of a switch under center simply don't ring true.

» The Cowboys' offense remained stuck in the mud without Ezekiel Elliott.

» The Giants' offense continues to struggle. The one touchdown scored was from the defense.

  1. This game mimicked countless Lions games previous, with Matthew Stafford facing deficits of 13-0, 20-3 and 27-10, but refusing to cave in. The Lions quarterback wiped away the memory of an ugly first half with a beautiful 43-yard touchdown strike to Marvin Jones that cut Minnesota's lead to 27-23 at the dawn of the fourth quarter. Ford Field went silent following the score as Stafford (20-of-35 passing for 250 yards and two scores) hobbled to the sideline after tripping backward and rolling his ankle over a Vikings defender. The tough-as-nails signal-caller returned to the field, but it was not to be, as Stafford -- clearly affected by the injury -- tossed a killer pick to Xavier Rhodes with three minutes left in the game. The Vikings, winners of seven straight, effectively drained the clock from there to seal the victory.
  1. Minnesota fans are tired of hearing about the Eagles, Saints and Rams mentioned before the Vikings as a legitimate Super Bowl threat in the NFC. Their agitation is on point. Backed by a balanced roster with dominant players on both sides of the ball, surging signal-caller Case Keenum completed 14 of his first 18 throws en route to another clean day with 282 yards through the air, two scores and no turnovers. He cooled in the second half, but Keenum has never displayed better field vision, looking off reads and picking perfect moments to use his feet to move the chains. With coordinator Pat Shurmur dialing up another masterful game plan and Minnesota's line playing as well as any league-wide, Keenum's play has been elevated to new heights. Make no mistake, though, he's grown personally in the realm of quarterbacking artistry, showing appropriate aggressiveness downfield while protecting the ball. Whispers of a switch under center simply don't ring true after another sturdy performance.
  1. The lack of a ground attack has killed the Lions all season. What else is new? They haven't had a back run for 100 yards in a game since Reggie Bush turned the trick on Turkey Day 2013. The result? Endless extra pressure on Stafford to save the day. Ameer Abdullah (6/14) and Theo Riddick (5/20) offer flashes of brilliance, but too much of that comes in the passing game. Imagine what a player like Le'Veon Bell -- nay, even a functioning chain-mover -- would do for play-action and the overall balance of this attack. Supported with just 40 yards on the ground from his backs, Stafford was forced into far too many obvious passing scenarios. It's unfair to say he doesn't have talent around him -- Marvin Jones (6/109/2) and Kenny Golladay (2/61) were sensational and Golden Tate is a massive asset -- but the lack of balance makes it tough for Detroit to command game flow.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. Philip Rivers dive-bombed a crumbling Cowboys secondary with a slew of huge pass plays. The Chargers' quarterback heaved eight passes of 20-plus yards, including chunks of 46, 42, 38, 32 and 31 yards. Rivers blitzed a Cowboys defense that didn't force a punt all game. The efficient L.A. QB finished a remarkable 27-of-33 passing for 434 yards, three touchdown tosses and zero interceptions. Much has been made of the Cowboys' offensive line injuries and Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, but the defensive collapse -- zero sacks, zero turnovers the past two weeks -- without Sean Lee has played a massive part in the poor showings.
  1. Keenan Allen (11 catches for 172 yards, TD) and Hunter Henry (5 for 76, TD) diced up Cowboys cover men all game. Allen was uncoverable for the second straight week, beating Dallas defenders off the line of scrimmage with ease, and breaking tackles on the second level. The receiver weaved his way around poor tackling attempts for the game-sealing 42-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. When Allen and Henry are heavily involved, the Chargers' offense can be one of the most dangerous units in the AFC. L.A. is now 5-1 this season when Henry gets at least five targets and 0-5 when he does not.
  1. The Cowboys' offense remained stuck in the mud without Elliott. Dallas had gone 26 straight possessions over 10 quarters without a TD before Rod Smith's TD plunge early in the fourth quarter. Dallas went 154 snaps between TDs, according to CBS. Facing a Chargers run defense giving up 138.9 yards per game and 4.9 yards per attempt entering Thanksgiving, Dallas couldn't get anything going on the ground early sans Elliott. Running backs Alfred Morris and Smith combined for 47 yards on 10 first-half runs. Down big in the fourth quarter, Dallas abandoned the run. Without Elliott, the Cowboys have been outscored 92-22 over three games.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. To know everything you need to know from this one, just take a scan at the Giants' offensive drive charts from the night. They read like this: Punt, punt, punt, punt, field goal, punt, half, punt, punt, punt, punt, fumble, interception. New York could not get anything going against a Redskins team that came into the game allowing an average of 26.6 points and 363.6 yards per game. Eli Manning threw for just 113 yards and an interception on 13-of-27 passing. The team ran for just 84 yards on 24 carries. The Giants were just never good enough offensively Thursday night to make it interesting.
  1. Jamison Crowder finally woke up the game for the Redskins late in the third quarter with a drive that was almost solely moved because of his efforts. He put Washington in good field position with a 14-yard punt return, moved the 'Skins into the redzone with a huge 33-yard catch and then he snagged the 15-yard touchdown to finish it off. With receiver Terrelle Pryor, tight end Jordan Reed and receiving back Chris Thompson all out, most expected Thursday night to be Josh Doctson's breakout game. Instead, it was Crowder's. The wideout, despite leaving the game late in the fourth quarter for a few minutes with a knee injury, finished the night with seven grabs for 141 yards and a score.
  1. Washington has blamed injuries for their woes this season, and probably rightfully so, but the mistakes they made ultimately kept this one close. There was a Jenkins pick-six that the corner was only able to grab because of running back Byron Marshall's drop. There was a third-down Josh Doctson catch where he inexplicably ran out of bounds short of the sticks. There was a blunder of epic proportions when the Redskins tried to down a punt inside the 10-yard line (more on that later). In the fourth quarter, they couldn't decide whether or not to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the New York 40-yard line, so they burned a timeout to avoid a delay of game. It's tough to win with the myriad of injuries they've had this season. It's even tougher when there are that many avoidable miscues in four quarters of football.

-- Edward Lewis

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