Cowboys look to build momentum vs. Lions
Boxer Manny Pacquiao has won twice at Cowboys Stadium since the last time the main tenant enjoyed a victory there.
As humiliating as that is for the Dallas Cowboys, things could get a lot worse Sunday.
The Detroit Lions will be there lugging an NFL futility record of 25 straight losses on the road. Jerry Jones' $1.2 billion ode to excess would be a hilarious dumping ground for their albatross, especially since the stadium will host this season's Super Bowl. For the Lions (2-7), playing at the site of the title game is as close as they're going to get.
Detroit had a great chance to end the skid last weekend. Playing at winless Buffalo, the Lions blew it, losing by two points. They've also had a two-point loss at Green Bay and a 19-14 loss at Chicago back in the opener, all of which shows how close they are to breaking through.
''This weekend will be a test and we'll be able to see the true character of a lot of individuals in the organization,'' Detroit receiver Nate Burleson said. ''I don't see anybody giving up or letting all the negative things that have happened this season wear them down. I'm not too worried about guys packing it in. We've got seven games left to make our mark on the season.''
Lions coach Jim Schwartz has all sorts of things he could use to pump confidence into his club, like Dallas also being 2-7 and being as lousy at home this season as Detroit has been on the road. He could show film of rookie Ndamukong Suh having 4 1/2 sacks when he played in this stadium last December, or point out that the Cowboys are starting a quarterback the Lions gave up on two years ago, Jon Kitna.
Schwartz could even liven things up with some subtle taunting by highlighting in his game plan tight end Brandon Pettigrew and receiver Derrick Williams. See, those were the guys Detroit took with picks Dallas gave up as part of a trade for receiver Roy Williams, a deal Troy Aikman has said could go down among the worst in club history.
Speaking of Aikman, there's one final Lions-Cowboys connection that warms the heart of any Detroit fan: Jan. 5, 1992, the franchise's lone playoff victory in the Super Bowl era and its only postseason victory since winning the 1957 NFL title, which came against Aikman and a Dallas club that would go on to win three of the next four Super Bowls.
All that said, the Cowboys are no longer the same miserable group that they were when they played at home a few weeks ago.
Jason Garrett is the interim coach now, and he's likely to get a raucous ovation after the way Dallas played in his debut last weekend, going to New York and treating the NFC front-running Giants as if they were the team battling for the top overall pick in the draft. The Cowboys won 33-20 behind big plays from the offense and defense.
''You certainly want to build on the things that were good and you want to correct the things that were not good; you do that on a daily basis,'' Garrett said. ''At the same time, last week is last week. We're on to the next. The Lions are going to be here at 12 noon on Sunday. Everybody has to get their focus on that.''
The Cowboys were 6-6 at Cowboys Stadium under Garrett's predecessor, Wade Phillips, and that's obviously an area where the new boss wants to improve. Besides, losing to the worst road team in NFL history would be a horrendous first home game for him, bad enough to erase all the good vibes from last weekend.
Another win also would help his campaign to get Jones to drop the interim label.
A second straight win would show tremendous progress for a club that seemed to have given up under Phillips. It would show that last weekend's victory wasn't a fluke, that the changes Garrett has implemented weren't just a one-week boost but the start of a bigger turnaround.
''I can honestly say that I don't see Jason using this as a job interview,'' Kitna said. ''I think that he's had in the back of his mind, `These are the things that I'm going to live by if and win my shot ever comes.' He came into a situation he really doesn't like, but he's going to go with his convictions. At the end of it, if that means he gets a job here or somewhere else, I think that's great.''
Against New York, Garrett challenged the offensive line to protect Kitna and they did. That helped get the ball to Felix Jones and Dez Bryant, the team's most dynamic playmakers, and each responded in a big way.
On defense, new coordinator Paul Pasqualoni rotated his front seven more often and played more zone defense. Dallas gave up a lot of yards, but not that many points because of three turnovers, including an interception that was returned 101 yards for a touchdown.
''When we weren't playing good, we weren't going out there and executing the play called,'' linebacker Keith Brooking said. ''Bottom line is we're executing better.''