Football on Thanksgiving Day is my favorite holiday tradition. I’m not a turkey trot kind of guy. Let me sleep in, be with my loved ones, and enjoy good food and good football. With games at 12:30 p.m., 4:00 p.m., and 8:15 p.m., the NFL owns the day, allowing families to come together and unite over one of America’s favorite pasttimes. The Buffalo Bills have spoiled us with two Thanksgiving wins the past couple of years, and with their 28-25 win over the Detroit Lions this year, earned a clean sweep: the franchise became the first to win in all three time slots.
While it wasn’t perfect, the game highlighted so many things for us as Bills fans to be thankful for. I’m thankful for the privilege of attending a classic holiday game with my dad, and getting the outcome that makes the price of admission worth every penny.
This week’s holiday special of Mr. B’s Breakdown will showcase why I’m thankful for this Bills squad, with players like Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Jordan Poyer, and Ed Oliver providing world-class entertainment while they pull every heart string.
Bills-Lions had a playoff atmosphere
The Lions playing on Thanksgiving is Detroit’s Super Bowl. I’m a bit biased, as my family is from just outside of Detroit, so we were watching them every Thanksgiving no matter what. But nonetheless, the Lions are a franchise that oozes failure. Since 2001, the Lions are now 5-18 on the holiday, which pairs well with their history of incompetence. The one thing this football team has is its holiday showdown, and fans can only hope the team isn’t eliminated from playoff contention before the late November game.
Coming into Week 12 on a three-game winning streak, however, Ford Field was electric from the get-go. Even with a massive amount of Bills fans in attendance, Lions fans kept a buzz and energy in the building until the very end. Not only that, but the ones I interacted with were awesome! So I tip my cap to the people of Detroit for the way they handle themselves, and the way they love their team. Still, fans were not expecting much. The gentleman who sat next to me said he was rooting for a good game, but wanted the Lions to lose for the sake of draft picks. He also continued by adding how thrilled he was Buffalo came to town, as they should be America’s team, because who could ever like the Dallas Cowboys? My kind of guy.
Ed Oliver deserves a turkey leg
Defensive tackle Ed Oliver, like many fans, loves Thanksgiving football. To the extent he said: “I want to play on Thanksgiving every day” in his conversation with the media after the game. Oliver is no stranger to success on the holiday. In his three games, Oliver now has 3.5 sacks, 14 tackles, three tackles for a loss, and two forced fumbles.
Oliver’s first game-changing play was in the second quarter, where he hit the trifecta — a tackle for a loss, forced fumble, and recovered fumble all on the same play.
On his next play, Buffalo’s defense unexpectedly had to take the field due to a red zone interception thrown by Allen, after the offense had driven down the field putting the team in scoring position. The Bills needed a spark, and Oliver delivered.
“Coach dialed up a play to the T, just for me to go in there,” Oliver said. “I just executed. He called it up for me, like that was a play designed for me to just manhandle that guard and get pressure, and that’s what we (did).”
Next Gen Stats did a good job showing how Oliver took advantage of the backup guard, blowing up Jared Goff in the end zone.
Ed Oliver overpowers backup guard Dan Skipper to sack Jared Goff for a safety.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 24, 2022
Oliver has generated 19 pressures over his last three games, 7 more than any other player in the NFL since Week 10.#DETvsBUF | #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/sFgeCKYgW3
With top pass rusher Von Miller out, Oliver did what stars do — elevate their game to the occasion. If it weren’t for a play-of-the-year candidate later in this game, this play by Oliver would have been the play of the game. It was the defensive play of the game, and if Oliver can continue to deliver games like this one, we’ll be thankful for him all the way into February.
Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs come up big when it matters most
We love our families and friends for many reasons, but one big quality of someone we value in our lives is that they’re there for us when we need them. Many people, if not everyone in the city of Buffalo, would consider Allen and Diggs as loved ones to them — and they gave us another moment that allows us to fall deeper in love with the duo.
One thing I have to highlight is what Diggs did with a young fan before the game. Moments like this are why we treasure this man. He has embodied Buffalo, and is an absolutely perfect face for the franchise next to Allen. Diggs gave this young fan a memory that will last a lifetime, then proceeded to show out with a play of the year that none of us will forget any time soon.
.@stefondiggs brought this @BuffaloBills fan on the field to have a catch with him.— NFL (@NFL) November 24, 2022
Best Thanksgiving ever. ❤️
: #BUFvsDET -- 12:30pm ET on CBS
: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/rs1CGFUmVT pic.twitter.com/Hs3Fr7252d
Detroit had tied the game, and Buffalo had 23 seconds to work with on offense. I looked over to the gentleman next to me and said Kansas City beat us with 13 seconds to go, and he kindly reminded me that while the Bills are not the Chiefs, it would be very typical for the Lions to lose a game like this.
Diggs had been held mostly in check the entire afternoon, but when the game was on the line, Allen delivered a strike to Diggs down the middle of the field for a 36-yard gain, Buffalo’s longest of the day. This view behind Allen shows how incredible the throw is. Had Allen been even a touch behind on the throw, the Lions intercept the pass. Had Allen led Diggs too much, he would have gotten rocked by the incoming safety. Allen put the ball right where it needed to be, and Diggs, through contact, made the catch, popped up, and called timeout, setting the Bills up in field goal range.
After the game, Diggs said he walked over to Allen to tell him three words: “I love you.”
He continued talking about his relationship with Allen in his post-game press conference:
“That’s like my real sibling. My little, big brother. He’s huge and all, but that’s still my little brother,” Diggs said. “I can tell that he has that energy that’s contagious. And I never want him to ever display bad body language. He’s so hard on himself because he’s a great player.”
Buffalo’s offense wasn’t perfect, as it looked like every yard the unit earned was a grind. For the first time this season, Buffalo’s offensive sputtered to the point of punting on three consecutive possessions.
Diggs knows it’s not always sunshine and rainbows in the NFL, but no matter what, he always supports his quarterback.
“Things aren’t gonna be perfect (but) I’m riding with my guy,” Diggs said. “We just had to try to get on the same page, every week is different. Going into that game we wanted to execute at a high level. Things didn’t happen perfectly, but we figured it out.
“(I told him) ‘Let’s get the ball rolling, let’s get back to having fun again.’ Because I felt like we got away from it a little bit,” Diggs said. “So I tell him: ‘I love you. Let’s get back to having fun, and let’s go back to winning.’”
How can you not be thankful for these two superstars. They’ve changed the trajectory of the franchise, and I know every time I get to see them play, I have a smile on my face — and no matter what, I am thankful that general manager Brandon Beane brought Diggs to Buffalo.
Final thoughts on Buffalo’s win
Buffalo gave us a holiday classic that will leave lasting memories for Bills fans everywhere. Despite the injuries, and struggles on both sides of the ball at times, Buffalo did what is most important — beat a team that they are better than, on a national stage, with the world watching. According to CBS Sports, it was the most-watched early Thanksgiving Day game on record, averaging over 31 million viewers, peaking at an estimated 42 million. Allen, or as the Bills social media team now says, Mr. Thanksgiving (a nickname that I love for him), willed his team to victory. His embrace with Diggs at the end of the game embodied all of Bills Mafia watching.
How will they manage through the injuries moving forward? Will offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey and the offense get back to looking unstoppable? Who knows. But right now, let’s bask in the gritty team win. Wins like this will continue teaching the team important lessons that should ultimately lead to developing a championship pedigree. A loss here would have hurt, but instead, we look to continue the winning ways into the most crucial section of the schedule.
How did the game impact your Thanksgiving? What were the conversations at your dinner table like? How many times was the phrase, “Thank God the Bills won this game” uttered during the meal? Sound off in the comments below!