Three in a Row

Despite a sluggish performance against the Detroit Lions, the Cowboys (7-3) have won three games in a row for first time since 2003.

They also are in a first-place tie with the Giants atop the NFC East.

Coach Bill Parcells believes this can be a special season.

That's why he was less than pleased with the team's play against the Lions, the Cowboys' second straight poor effort in victory.

"I can't get things quite the way I want them yet," Parcells said. "They still don't all get it. Don't worry, it's not them. It's me. Our standards are just different. I want them to play up to my standards."

Parcells refuses to be satisfied because he knows the Cowboys can play better.

And with an increasingly tougher schedule, he knows they must play better if they hope to continue to win and reach their full potential.

The Cowboys face the Broncos (8-2) on Thursday and then have a 10-day layoff before the final push. That stretch begins with the Giants and includes the dangerous Chiefs and Panthers. In fact, only one of the Cowboys' remaining opponents has a losing record.

"He has high expectations," safety Roy Williams said of Parcells. "We have to meet those high expectations. We are in this to do great things at the end of the season. We can't think of short-term goals. We have to think big. He is."

Those big thoughts start Thursday against the Broncos in what is a measuring stick game for the Cowboys.

"This is a fun time," receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. "You got a (Denver) team that is probably the best in the league. With all due respect to the Colts, the Broncos have played superior opponents. They have an excellent coach. They have a quarterback on fire and a running game that has always been one of the best. We will have to have our A game. You can't come in with your B game and expect to win."

Credit new-old kicker Billy Cundiff, who connected on two field goals, including a team-record 56-yarder, in the 20-7 win over Detroit.

Rookie running back Marion Barber added touchdown runs of 6 and 4 yards, and Julius Jones had 92 yards.

But also thank the Lions, who were most charitable in a flag day for the ages.

The Lions were flagged a team-record 17 times for 129 yards, including nine that resulted in Cowboys first downs.

No Cowboys opponent has ever been more charitable, as the Lions threatened the NFL record for flags in a game of 22 set by three different teams.

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