LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Eagles, Lions, Panthers, Cowboys, Packers and Bears all took the field with a chance to make those fans watching at home on Thanksgiving proud.
Game 1: Eagles at Lions
Matthew Stafford dropped back and perfectly lofted the ball where only Calvin Johnson could catch it.
Johnson leaped to come down with the 25-yard pass in the end zone for the first of a career-high matching three touchdown receptions, Stafford tied a personal best with five scoring passes, and the surging Detroit Lions kept the Philadelphia Eagles reeling with a 45-14 rout Thursday.
“When we’re on point like that, it’s hard to stop,” Johnson said.
The Lions (4-7) have won three straight since firing their team president and general manager, and three in a row in their annual Thanksgiving game.
Detroit ran for 108 yards, tied a season high with six sacks and Matt Prater made a 48-yard field goal.
“That’s as complete a victory as we’ve had since we’ve been here,” said Jim Caldwell, who won 11 games last season in his first year as Detroit’s coach.
The Eagles (4-7) have lost three straight. They have allowed at least 45 points in two straight games in one season for the first time, according to STATS, and have lost by at least 28 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1971.
“We all take accountability,” coach Chip Kelly said. “I’m a coach, not a player, so it starts with me. I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, and I don’t think anybody points fingers at anybody.”
Stafford threw for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover by halftime for the second time in his career, according to STATS, to help the Lions lead 24-7. He finished 27 of 38 for 337 yards and threw five TDs for the fourth time in his career.
“Our quarterback is comfortable in this offense,” Caldwell said. “And when that happens, it gives you opportunities for your playmakers to do things.”
Johnson had eight catches for 93 yards and three TDs, matching his career high set in 2010.
After not throwing to Johnson much early in the game, Stafford started connecting with the star receiver. The Eagles couldn’t do much about it, especially when starting cornerback Nolan Carroll left in the second quarter with a broken right ankle and was replaced by rookie Eric Rowe.
“At the end of the first quarter, I realized we hadn’t gotten 81 the ball yet, so we dialed up some plays for him,” Stafford said. “We started getting aggressive, and that opened up a couple routes for him.”
The quarterback seems to be clicking with plays called by offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who replaced the fired Joe Lombardi a month ago.
“I love that he’s so aggressive,” Stafford said. “That rubs off on the players because it is fun when he’s giving you chances to make big plays.”
Taking advantage of Johnson in one-on-one coverage, Stafford threw 4- and 3-yard TD passes to Johnson in the third quarter.
“We’re attacking the defense, and not playing defense on offense,” Johnson said.
Stafford started the scoring barrage with an 8-yard pass to Theo Riddick, who made a sharp move to the inside to get away from linebacker Mychal Kendricks late in the opening quarter. Stafford threw a go-ahead, 2-yard TD midway through the second quarter to Golden Tate, who lined up as a fullback and went to the flat where he caught the ball and stopped, letting safety Walter Thurmond run past him.
Mark Sanchez started in place of Sam Bradford, who was inactive with a shoulder injury. Sanchez completed 19 of 27 passes for 199 yards and two TDs. He connected with Brent Celek early in the second quarter on a 2-yard pass to help Philadelphia pull into a 7-all tie and with Jordan Matthews for a relatively meaningless, 24-yard TD late in the game.
Sanchez was able to connect with receivers when he had time, but that didn’t happen very often.
Detroit’s Ezekiel Ansah had a career-high 3 1/2 sacks, one of which forced a fumble by Sanchez that the defensive end recovered.
“That guy’s got a serious grip — rigor mortis or something,” Sanchez said.
Game 2: Panthers at Cowboys
Cam Newton sprinted to a corner of the $1.2 billion showplace of the Dallas Cowboys, pointing a camera at celebrating Carolina fans while gesturing to them with a wide smile.
A few minutes later, a somber Tony Romo talked to reporters with his left arm in a sling for the second time this season because of a collarbone injury.
The Panthers are 11-0 after a 33-14 victory in their Thanksgiving debut, and the Cowboys could be facing another long stretch without Romo in what has become a lost season for the defending NFC East champions.
Luke Kuechly and Kurt Coleman returned two of Romo’s three interceptions for touchdowns, and Newton ran for the Panthers’ only offensive score as they pushed their NFL-best winning streak to 15 regular-season games Thursday.
“Well, we got a lot of help from our defense,” Newton said. “Defense went out there and brought their A-game and made our job a lot easier.”
Romo’s first collarbone injury sidelined him for all seven games of a losing streak that severely damaged the chances for another playoff trip by the Cowboys (3-8), who have now lost eight of nine.
The 35-year-old with a surgically repaired back said he would have to wait for more test results Friday before knowing if he broke the collarbone again. He was injured in Week 2 at Philadelphia and said the injury had a similar feel this time.
Coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t rule out Romo returning this season, and said he would play if he was cleared even with the Cowboys unlikely to have a realistic shot to defend their division title.
Kuechly intercepted two straight passes by Romo, returning the first 32 yards for a touchdown. Coleman picked off Romo’s second pass of the game and took it back 36 yards for the score to send the Panthers on their way to becoming the 16th NFL team to win the first 11 games.
“We started fast on defense,” Kuechly said. “Kurt had that big pick and really set the tone.”
Before getting hurt, Romo didn’t look anything like the only quarterback to beat multiple teams with records of 9-0 or better.
He ended up losing for the first time in four starts this season. He had previously beaten Indianapolis at 9-0 in his fourth career start in 2006 and New Orleans at 13-0 three years later.
Newton did his part as well, getting Carolina’s only offensive touchdown on a 4-yard run for a 30-6 lead moments before Romo’s injury. He had 183 yards passing with several key third-down conversions and another 45 yards rushing.
On the second play of Dallas’ possession after Newton’s score, Romo was hit by a blitzing Thomas Davis and went down on his left shoulder, just as he did almost 10 weeks ago in Philadelphia.
Romo went on injured reserve with a designation to return after the first injury, and the Cowboys couldn’t win without him. They were already well on their way to a loss this time a week after Romo ended the seven-game skid in his return last week at Miami.
He was 11 of 21 with 106 yards and a 27.2 passer rating.
“I’m just very disappointed in not giving our team a chance to win today,” Romo said. “They depend on me to go out there and perform at a certain level, and when I let them down, let our team down, our coaches, our fan base, everybody. That’s what I did today, and I have to live with that.”
Carolina led 13-3 when Kuechly and the NFL’s leading defense for takeaways put the Panthers firmly in control.
The league’s top tackler since joining the NFL in 2012, Kuechly dropped into coverage and easily stepped in front of a pass intended for Terrance Williams before churning up the left sideline and pushing Romo away as he crossed the goal line.
On the next play, Kuechly made a nifty over-the-head catch on a ball thrown to Jason Witten. The linebacker looked a little winded on the return, eventually settling for a 17-yarder that led to the third of Graham Gano’s four field goals to put the Panthers up 23-3 at halftime.
“In my eyes, he will always be Captain America because he makes every play,” Newton said. “He shows up. He prepares extremely well. That’s what people really don’t see about this whole team.”
It was the fourth time Romo has thrown multiple pick-6s in a game, and the first since a 34-18 home loss in 2012 against a Chicago defense that was among the league’s best in forcing turnovers. Romo actually won his first of those, against Buffalo in 2007.
No such chance this time, because Newton kept the Carolina offense moving when Romo wasn’t throwing interceptions.
Newton had three 24-yard completions on third down, and led the Panthers into the end zone after Dallas’ Byron Jones was penalized for leaping on top of his linemen when Gano made a 48-yard field goal.
NOTES: Dallas defensive end Greg Hardy had a quiet game against his former team, finishing without any tackles and missing most of the second half with an injury Garrett wouldn’t specify. He missed the last 15 games last year with Carolina because of his domestic violence case. Hardy signed with the Cowboys as a free agent and served a four-game suspension to start this season. … Panther WR Jerricho Cotchery had five catches for a game-high 73 yards, and four of them converted third downs.
Game 3: Bears at Packers
Jay Cutler threw for 200 yards and a score and the Chicago Bears held off the Green Bay Packers on fourth-and-goal from the 8 with 22 seconds left for a 17-13 victory Thursday night.
Aaron Rodgers’ throw to the end zone deflected off receiver Davante Adams’ hands on the rain. James Jones couldn’t hang on to a potential touchdown catch on third down.
Cornerback Tracy Porter intercepted Rodgers’ pass with 3:19 left at the Bears 45 on the Packers’ previous drive.
The highlight of the night for Green Bay turned out to be the return of Brett Favre, whose name and No. 4 was unveiled at halftime next to the team’s other retired numbers.
Chicago (5-6) has won three of its last four. The Packers (7-4) lost a second straight home game.
Jeremy Langford ran for a touchdown for Chicago.