Josh Allen's first performance on Thanksgiving was one that introduced him and this Bills team to the rest of the country back in 2019. This year on Thanksgiving, Allen's play in the game topped that of the one two years ago as he led his team to a 31-6 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Allen finished the game completing 23 of 28 of his passes for 260 yards with four touchdowns, two interceptions and a 115.2 passer rating. He also had eight rushes for 43 yards. Allen hit a new single-game high in completion percentage at 82.1%. That completion rate tied as the fourth-highest by Bill in a single game (min. 20 att.), and the highest percentage by a Bills quarterback since Trent Edwards (83.33%) in 2008.
With his performance of Thursday, Allen now has 3,071 passing yards this season. He reached the 3,000-yard milestone for the third straight season, joining Jim Kelly and Ryan Fitzpatrick as the only three Bills quarterbacks to do so in franchise history.
The four touchdown passes that Allen threw on Thursday night puts him at 25 so far this season. That ties Jim Kelly (1991) for the most passing touchdowns by a Bills in the first 11 games of the season. It was also Allen's sixth career game with four or more touchdown passes which all have come in the past two seasons. Only Tom Brady (9) and Aaron Rodgers (9) have had more games with four or more passing touchdowns since the start of 2020.
The only negative aspect of Allen's Thanksgiving performance was the two first-half interceptions that he threw. His second interception of the game was the first pick Allen has thrown in the red zone throughout his whole career. Allen now has seven interceptions in the past four games compared to only three in the first seven games. Allen knows that he needs to take better care of the football and that turning the football over is what loses them games – especially in the playoffs. This team strives for perfection and Allen will be working on his decision-making and timing to limit turnovers with their next game against the Patriots in more than 10 days.
"Coach always talks about playoff caliber and that's the team we want to be," Allen said. "It's the pursuit of perfection. This team, we're not just happy with winning. We want to be the best versions of ourselves every day we step into that building, every time we step on the field, we want to be the best teammate, the best player that we can possibly be, and you feel that amongst the guys."
The Bills have had recent success on Thanksgiving
The Bills are now 2-0 in games played on Thanksgiving since Sean McDermott took over as head coach in 2017. This game marked the 10th game the Bills have played on Thanksgiving dating back to 1961. This is the first time in franchise history that the team has won consecutive games on Thanksgiving. The Bills went up against a Saints team coached by Sean Payton who was previously undefeated when he played on a holiday (Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas). The Bills gave him his first loss on a holiday and gave the Saints franchise their first loss on Thanksgiving. After the game, it's an NBC tradition to give the players of the game a game ball and a turkey leg. Jordan Poyer told the media that he loves the tradition but wasn't the biggest fan of the turkey.
"I don't know how I felt about it," Poyer said. "It wasn't the turkey leg I'm used to eating, no offense to whoever cooked it, but it was a little dry. Might need some seasoning on it."
Dawson Knox sets new franchise record for touchdown catches
Dawson Knox is continuing to improve on the best season of his career and show that he's one of the best tight ends in the NFL this season. Knox had three catches for 32 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints and is only six weeks removed from breaking his hand. On the season Knox has 31 receptions for 415 yards and seven touchdowns – all career highs. He set a new franchise record for most touchdowns for a tight end set by Pete Metzelaars, Jay Riemersma and Scott Chandler (6). Knox is happy about the record, but he wants more.
"I didn't know that," Knox said. "It's exciting. Obviously, the Bills have had some great tight ends. But if I've already set the record, I want to keep going with that."
Ed Oliver continues to shine on Thanksgiving
On Thanksgiving night in 2019, Ed Oliver had a day against the Dallas Cowboys with 2.0 sacks, a tackle for loss, a QB hit and a forced fumble. This year, Oliver followed that up with another Thanksgiving game in which he was a destructive force for the Bills defensive line. Against the Saints, Oliver got his first sack of the season after many had been taken away by penalty this season. He also had two QB hits and one pass defensed. After the game, Oliver said he had bought about 40 tickets for his family to attend the game and he didn't want to let them down.
"Both of the games, they're pretty close to home," Oliver said. "I've got a lot of family in Louisiana and a lot my family in Texas. I get in front of my folks and it's like, 'Well I paid for all these tickets for all of them to come in so I've gotta go hard.' Otherwise, I'm wasting money really."
The Bills special teams unit gets high praise from McDermott
After the game, Sean McDermott went out of his way to open up his press conference and give some much-deserved love to his special teams unit.
"One thing I do want to point out -- I thought the kickoff coverage, I know it's probably not going to be written about, but that's ok, I'll mention it anyway," McDermott said. "The kickoff coverage was outstanding. The special teams, I thought, did a terrific job giving us a spark and the energy we needed."
McDermott highlighted that he had a lot of trust in his kickoff coverage and that they executed well. Punter Matt Haack had three punts for 127 yards, averaging 42.3 yards a kick, and had two land inside the 20-yard line. McDermott thought the unit was hungry and brought a lot of juice to the game. He was impressed that they were able to neutralize one of the better returners in the league, Deonte Harris.
With the special teams unit, there was a change made by McDermott after last week's loss. After Isaiah McKenzie fumbled the ball on a kickoff against the Colts, he was inactive for the game on Thanksgiving. Rookie Marquez Stevenson filled the role of returner in his first career game. McDermott knows that McKenzie is a competitor and will work his way back, but he had to do what was best for the team. Other players spoke about McKenzie after the game and said that he's a pro and will bounce back from adversity. Running back Matt Breida told McKenzie this throughout the short week.
"I told him don't worry about it, your time is gonna come again," Breida stated. "We'll come back to you. You know that especially with the NFL, there are so many injuries that happen, you never wish for them, but they happen. Isaiah is a great player; I think he's the number one kickoff returner in the league right now. So, we'll come back to him. And like I said, you just have to be ready and know your role on the team."