A popular phrase to describe the Lions after a loss is to say they are always finding new ways to lose. While that often is true (just look at the Bears game earlier this season), it was not the case on Sunday in Dallas. The Lions did lose to fall to 2-8 on the season, but it wasn't exactly a new way to go down by any means. Sure there were a few odd plays, but it followed a usual script for losses in 2010. The Lions kept things close for much of the game and even led at one point, showing signs that a win was imminent. In the end, though, the Cowboys stormed ahead for a lead and that was all she wrote for Detroit, as the road losing streak was extended to 26 games.
Things got off to a rocky start for the Lions on Sunday. Detroit had to punt on the opening drive of the game and the Cowboys got the ball and went 13 plays and 98 yards for a touchdown drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock. The Lions only forced a third down twice on the entire drive, and the Cowboys converted both times. The second conversion was a one-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant to give Dallas an early 7-0 lead.
The Lions rebounded after the tough start and actually played quite well defensively. The defense was making stops and forcing punts, keeping the score close in spite of the offense's struggles. The Lions did get a 47-yard field goal on the drive right after Dallas' touchdown, but the two teams traded punts until the end of the first half. It was then that Felix Jones had the ball knocked loose by Kyle Vanden Bosch on the first play of a drive that began with 48 seconds left in the second quarter. DeAndre Levy recovered the ball at the 14-yard line, and two plays later Shaun Hill found Nate Burleson for a nine-yard touchdown. Just like that the Lions took a 10-7 lead going into halftime.
The start of the second half was more of what we saw in the first half as far as there being a lack of offense. There were two punts to start the half, and after the Lions pinned Dallas inside the five yet again, Ndamukong Suh drew a safety when Leonard Davis held him in the end zone. The safety gave the Lions a 12-7 lead and suddenly all of the momentum was on their side. While there was plenty of time left, it looked like the Lions were on track to finally end their road losing streak.
The problem, as has been the case throughout this losing streak, is that reality set in. On the ensuing possession, the Lions picked up one first down before having to punt. Like he had done throughout the game, Nick Harris had another tremendous punt that John Wendling downed right near the goal line. It looked like the Cowboys were once again going to have awful field position, but then out of nowhere came Bryan McCann, who picked up the ball after Wendling batted it and went 97 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. It looked like McCann stepped out of bounds 30-40 yards away from the end zone on a replay, but there was no whistle and Jim Schwartz did not challenge the ruling. It was just a lot of bad luck, and as Wendling said after the game, "it’s one of those one-in-a-million things." Unfortunately for the Lions it happened and Dallas was now back on top.
The Lions' sudden downward spiral continued on the second play of the ensuing drive. Jerome Felton had the ball stripped and Dallas recovered at the 19-yard line. It took the Cowboys only four plays to score, as Jon Kitna found Miles Austin for a three-yard touchdown to put Dallas up 21-12.
Surprisingly, the Lions did bounce back on the next drive. Detroit quickly moved the ball down the field thanks mainly to a 58-yard pass to Burleson. He put the Lions in position to score, and they did just that two plays later on a 14-yard pass to Calvin Johnson, who made the catch in the back of the end zone. Although the sequence of events before this was just awful for Detroit, the touchdown made this a two-point game.
Unfortunately for the Lions, the defense was unable to respond like the offense did. The defense didn't give up a big play or anything, but rather let the Cowboys methodically march down the field over the next eight minutes of action. Dallas took 16 plays to go 71 yards and converted four third downs along the way, eventually capping off the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Austin. The score put the Cowboys up 28-19 with a little more than 11 minutes to play.
The Lions' chances of mounting a comeback were already running thin after they had to punt on the proceeding drive, but they became nonexistent once the Cowboys got the ball back and scored again. Dallas moved the ball methodically down the field again, but this time the defense just collapsed for Detroit on fourth and one from the Lions' 29-yard line. Jon Kitna ran a bootleg and went into the end zone untouched for the score. The Cowboys were now up 35-19 and the Lions were basically as good as dead at this point.
The final nail in the coffin came when Shaun Hill heaved a pass downfield that was picked off by Terence Newman. The Lions did get the ball back with a minute left, but obviously they would have needed a whole lot more time to even think about making things close. The clock ran out seven plays into the drive and the Lions lost by 16 points, their biggest defeat of the season.
This game was really symbolic of this whole season. The offense showed signs of greatness every once in a while but more often than not couldn't do anything. Then on defense things were going very well for much of the game, but on a few drives here or there Dallas basically was able to do whatever it wanted. There were bad calls by the officials (horse collar penalties took center stage, including one where Ndamukong Suh grabbed Marion Barber by the hair and the face mask but was instead flagged for a horse collar penalty) and bad luck as well (see Dallas' punt return for a touchdown), and in general it was just another day at the office for the Lions on the road. They showed why they could be better than 2-8, but at the end of the day they showed exactly why they are 2-8.
With Thanksgiving just days away, the Lions have no time to think about this loss. The focus must immediately turn to the Patriots, which are going to be coming to Detroit fresh off of a win over the Colts. New England looks like one of the better teams in the league, and although it did experience an upset against Cleveland a couple weeks back, it'd take a lot of good luck for the Lions to emerge victorious on Thanksgiving. Stranger things have happened for sure, but the Lions just look like they are destined to be blown out by Tom Brady and the Patriots. I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't have a good feeling at all about this game.
Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS.