As the Detroit Lions look to move beyond their woeful past, the Dallas Cowboys hope for a bright future with their new coach.
Article continues below ...
The Cowboys earning their first victory in their new stadium Sunday would be an important step.
Detroit, loser of a league-record 25 straight road games, takes on a Dallas team that’s the only NFL club yet to win at home.
The Cowboys are coming off an impressive 33-20 victory over the New York Giants last week in Jason Garrett’s head coaching debut. Dallas seemed to respond to a more disciplined approach under Garrett, who took over for the fired Wade Phillips.
"You feel a different vibe around here," defensive end Stephen Bowen said. "We worked really hard last week and we showed what we get when we work hard. … I felt it just from the beginning of the week it was going to be a different effort. Everybody was all in behind coach Garrett, and you see how we played out there."
Garrett had served as Dallas’ offensive coordinator since 2007, and he’s tasked with getting the Cowboys (2-7) back on track. The team is off to its worst start since 1989.
"I thought our guys individually responded when another guy made a play on them," Garrett said. "I thought our units responded. And then maybe most importantly, I thought our team responded."
Dallas’ defense, which has the second-fewest takeaways in the league, forced three turnovers against the Giants.
Rookie Dez Bryant caught three passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. He’s scored four times in his last three games.
"We needed this," Bryant said. "I knew it was in all of us. I just felt like we had to come together and we did that."
Former Lion Jon Kitna, making his fourth start in relief of the injured Tony Romo, threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns. It was Kitna’s first three-TD game since Sept. 9, 2007, with Detroit.
"We’re 2-7 and we can’t hide from that," Kitna said. "But we are a 2-7 team that just won one, so you are moving forward. You certainly have a better feel today. It’s nice to come in and have things talked about positively."
Discussions in Detroit haven’t been as pleasant. The Lions broke their own mark for road futility last week, losing 14-12 to previously winless Buffalo. It was Detroit’s second straight defeat and third in its last four.
"There’s a lot of people in this locker room that didn’t contribute to where the streak is now, but once you put on that jersey you’re embracing the past, present and future," first-year receiver Nate Burleson said. "That’s how I feel every time I step on the field, especially on the road. I’m thinking about what I can do for this organization.
"I want to end this season .500 or as close as possible, but winning on the road is No. 1 thing for me."
Detroit (2-7) hasn’t done that since beating Chicago on Oct. 28, 2007. If the Lions are to accomplish the feat in Dallas, they’ll have to do it without quarterback Matthew Stafford, who will miss his second straight game and seventh of the season due to a separated shoulder.
Shaun Hill will get the start after going 29 of 50 for 323 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Bills. His touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson with 14 seconds left pulled the Lions within two, but his 2-point conversion attempt fell incomplete.
"We’re getting used to playing in close games," coach Jim Schwartz said. "What we’re not getting used to is winning close games."
Johnson’s 128-yard receiving game was his third 100-yard effort in the last four.
"It was really frustrating, especially coming here and feeling we were the better team," Johnson said. "We weren’t thinking about the streak. That should have ended it. But it didn’t."
Jahvid Best, who hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 2, rushed for only 35 yards – the fourth straight game he was held to less than 50.
Detroit hasn’t played in Dallas since Dec. 31, 2006, when Kitna’s four touchdown passes lifted the Lions over the Cowboys 39-31. Dallas has won three of the last four meetings.