By DERON SNYDER
LANDOVER – Where’s the flex schedule when you need it?
I know, I know. It would never work for Thanksgiving. The NFL only switches games scheduled for Sunday, moving them in or out of the primetime window based on their appeal. Games slated for Thursday, Saturday or Monday are ineligible.
Besides, NFL fans have suffered through decades of mostly lousy Lions football on Thanksgiving.
We couldn’t expect the league to react just because Washington’s first-ever home game on the holiday was as appealing as weeks-old mac-n-cheese left on the counter.
But if ever a game didn’t warrant infringing on our collective Turkey Day, it was Washington’s 20-10 victory against the New York Giants.
This isn’t Detroit or Dallas, where generations of fans have grown up with the custom and turned it into a ritual. I suspect most of us would be perfectly fine if the Skins never played a home game on the fourth Thursday of November.
For the majority of the evening, both teams appeared lukewarm to being there as well.
Washington escaped with a victory thanks to 10 points in the game’s final 3:31, including the go-ahead touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Josh Doctson. Nick Rose added a 33-yard field goal for the final margin with 1:54 remaining.
But exciting moments were few and the standard was low. Slot receiver Jamison Crowder left with an injured knee but returned to the game? Yes! Halfback Samaje Perine’s injured finger flared up but he didn’t let it keep him out? Hooray! The new offensive linemen didn’t get Cousins killed? Yippee!
There’s no way to put this nicely: The game as an abomination well past halftime, at which point the score remained a somnolent 3-3. Someone on Twitter suggested letting the punters settle matters via arm wrestling. It sounded like a good idea.
Before Washington scored the game’s first touchdown (admittedly a scintillating play that Cousins extended by scrambling before finding Crowder in the end zone with 6:32 left in the third quarter), the teams combined for 11 punts and 12 first downs.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning had 61 passing yards entering the fourth quarter. Manning also had two shots to engineer go-ahead scoring drives in the fourth quarter when the game was tied at 10-all. Both teams were playing ugly and – naturally – were determined to win that way.
“We not interested in stats here,” Washington coach Jay Gruden said. “We’re interested in wins.”
They got the victory, but at what cost? I’m not talking about the players who suffered more injuries. My concern is for those who trekked to FedEx Field instead of staying home or visiting family/friends on Thanksgiving like normal people.
Washington opened its parking lots at noon and set up several big-screen TVs so tailgaters could watch the early games. No judgement here, but anyone whose holiday included eight hours in a parking lot and another three in the stadium might want to examine their lives.
There’s a reason tickets for this game were as low as $8 on Stubhub. Even at that bargain-bin price, refunds were in order before the Skins’ fourth-quarter heroics. But the lack of interest wasn’t due solely to the teams’ combined 6-14 record entering the game. Thanksgiving in D.C. likely would be a buyers’ market if first-place in the NFC East was at stake.
Lots of people who live here aren’t from here. Many go elsewhere for the holiday, which rules them out for attending the game. Many others have relatives who come to visit, and I suspect the out-of-towners prefer to watch games on TV from the comfort of their hosts’ homes.
In the end, local fans got what they wanted – a win. To fit the occasion, the game mostly was a turkey, tryptophan and all.
Maybe something good will come of the leftovers, especially the emergence of Perine, who rushed for 97 of his 100 yards after intermission. Crowder also resembled his old self in the second half, where he recorded 90 of his 141 receiving yards. The defense was solid throughout, holding New York to three points and 170 yards.
But facing the Giants was a major reason for Thursday’s malaise.
“Our offense wasn’t very good,” coach Ben McAdoo said, offering astute analysis of his 2-9 team.
The 5-6 Skins don’t have to hang their heads. They beat the miserable Giants and extracted a measure of revenge for losing the season finale last year.
But Washington and the NFL owe us for the first Thanksgiving game here.
They can repay us by making it the last one for a very long time.