NFL's Raiders-Cowboys Thanksgiving game was most-watched regular season game in 30 years

Even the refs couldn't stop the NFL from scoring monster ratings on Thanksgiving.

Thursday's game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys was watched by an estimated 38.531 million viewers, according to CBS. That reportedly makes it the most watched NFL regular-season game on any network since 1990 and a 26 percent increase from last year's CBS game.

The network also noted the game, which the Raiders won 36-33 in overtime, was its most-watched game ever on its Paramount+ streaming service.

For reference, the most watched NFL game this season had been last week's game between the Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, which scored 28.1 million viewers per The Athletic's Richard Deitsch. The moral of the story here is that the NFL remains the sports industry's ratings king, and the Cowboys are its crown jewel.

Thanksgiving viewers tuned into a ref show

The Raiders-Cowboys game might have been a winner for the NFL, but the losers were fans who don't enjoy penalties.

Over the course of four quarters and overtime, each team accrued 14 flags for a total of 276 penalty yards. That yardage exceeded the total yards gained by the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints on the same day. It was the most penalties the NFL had seen in a game since 2016.

The ending of the game also turned on a penalty, as Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown was called for pass interference on a 3rd-and-18 play in overtime. Rather than face 4th-and-long on their own 43-yard line, the penalty moved the Raiders well into field goal range at the Dallas 24-yard line.

Brown was penalized a total of four times for 91 yards in the game, accounting for nearly a third of the penalty yardage by himself. This was easily the costliest:

There were still some fun moments between all the flags — it did reach overtime while quarterbacks Derek Carr and Dak Prescott both posted more than 350 passing yards — but it was one of those games where it felt like the teams weren't the only groups deciding the outcome.

Of course, it's not like the other two Thanksgiving games were much more palatable. The early game between the Lions and Chicago Bears very much looked like a game between a winless team and a team seemingly on the verge of firing its coach, while the night game was a complete blowout for the Buffalo Bills over the New Orleans Saints.