The Lions will play in Cowboys Stadium for the second consecutive year. Last year's game was the "backup bowl," Cowboys backup quarterback Jon Kitna, a former Lion, took on Lions backup quarterback Shaun Hill. The Cowboys won 35-19, but the Lions still contend a little help from the officials helped the Cowboys' cause.
In the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys holding a 21-19 lead, the home team faced a second-and-13 at the Detroit 13. Marion Barber gained only 2 yards on a carry, but Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was penalized half the distance for a horsecollar. Replays showed Suh had yanked Barber by his dreadlocks, which is legal.
Instead of third-and-11, the Cowboys used the first down for new life and scored three plays later on a 4-yard Kitna pass to Miles Austin. The Lions complained to the league afterward about the phantom horsecollar.
"It was called," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media at Valley Ranch. "We didn’t do a very good job of responding to it. I know if we had held the Cowboys to a field goal there, that’s a completely different game, because we’re within one score and our offense had been moving the ball. Our job isn’t to officiate. Our job is to play. After that call was made, we gave up a touchdown. We can’t complain. We still had a chance to get them stopped, to hold them to a field-goal attempt right there. We didn’t get it done. There were some big plays in the game. The plus-50 punt that was getting ready to go down on the 1. The kid [Bryan McCann] did a great job of picking it up and doing the distance. That was a really, really big turning point in the game. We had a turnover very early in the third quarter. We made it difficult on ourselves in a lot of ways. The long return. The turnover. Penalties. Things like that. It’s very difficult to do those things on the road and win.
"Last week [in a comeback victory over the Vikings], we had some mistakes and made some penalties. We didn’t turn the ball over. We didn’t give up any long touchdowns off the returns and things like that. But we were able to hang in that game, keep it manageable, and then once we started playing better in the second half, we were able to get back in that game and obviously take it to overtime and win. And those are the things we weren’t able to do last year against Dallas."
The Lions will play Barber twice this season as Barber now resides in the same division, having signed with the Bears as a free agent.
-- Charean Williams