“You know, Thursday night games are one thing, but to play on a Sunday night game and then come back and play on a Thursday . . . you can’t really [complain publicly] because first off, it’s not an excuse for your players, you don’t want it to be. But I would say it’s crazy. It’s silly, all right? It shouldn’t happen.”
That was Saints Coach Sean Payton in October 2014 after New Orleans became only the fifth team since the merger to play a Thursday night road game after playing the previous Sunday night at home, and only the second team to win both games of the “crazy” and “silly” back-to-back.
Payton’s comments ring true for Redskins players and coaches, who, after routing the Packers at FedEx Field on Sunday night, are looking to win their second game in less than 96 hours when they travel to play the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s B.S.,” Redskins defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said last week. “Why you gonna have a bunch of guys playing Sunday night and in a few days afterward you got a bunch of guys playing a Thursday afternoon in Dallas? … I would like for you guys to ask [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell this question. I don’t really believe the NFL believes in player safety. All they’re trying to do is make another buck.”
“I don’t think it’s really fair, but we’ve got to deal with it,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said Monday. ” . . . The biggest thing is, you worry about the health of your football team. We’re at the point in the year when our guys are pretty beat up. We’re healthy, but guys still have bumps and bruises that aren’t on the injury report.”
Dallas Coach Jason Garrett, whose NFC East-leading Cowboys hosted the Ravens in a game that kicked off at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, has some idea of the challenge that Gruden faces. In 2014, the Cowboys played in a Sunday night game against the Giants four days before losing to the Eagles, 33-10, on Thanksgiving. At least the second game was at home.
Here are the five previous instances of teams playing a Sunday night game at home followed by a Thursday game on the road and how they fared:
2014 Saints: 2-0
Sunday, Oct. 26 vs. Packers: W, 44-23
Thursday, Oct. 30 at Panthers: W, 28-10
2011 Jets: 0-2
Sunday, Nov. 13 vs. Patriots: L, 37-16
Thursday, Nov. 17 at Broncos: L, 17-13
2006 Broncos: 0-2
Sunday, Nov. 19 vs. Chargers: L, 35-27
Thursday, Nov. 23* at Chiefs: L, 19-10
2003 Dolphins: 2-0
Sunday, Nov. 23 vs. Redskins: W, 24-23
Thursday, Nov. 27* at Cowboys: W, 40-21
1995 Chiefs: 1-1
Sunday, Nov. 19 vs. Oilers: W, 20-13
Thursday, Nov. 23* at Cowboys: L, 24-12
*Thanksgiving Day game.
(Source: Pro Football Reference)