Parcells Preparing For Improved Lions

Last season, the 1-4 Detroit Lions were set to host the upstart 4-1 Dallas Cowboys. A few hours later, each team went into predictable directions. Two completely different ball clubs enter Texas Stadium on Sunday.

What a difference a year makes.

Last season, the 1-4 Detroit Lions were set to host the upstart 4-1 Dallas Cowboys. A few hours later, each team went into predictable directions. Detroit found itself on the undesirable side of a 38-7 score -- and a fifth consecutive loss. It wouldn't be their last. Current starting quarterback Joey Harrington was even benched during the loss after compiling a 7.3 QB rating, including two interceptions.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, went to the playoffs.

Fast forward to 2004, where -- if you're a Lions fan -- it's been a dramatic change for the better.

The Lions have marched to a 4-2 record, 3-0 on the road for the first time since 2000, and already looking to match last season's win total. The Cowboys? Just 2-4 following last Sunday's dismal loss to the Green Bay Packers.

The improvement by Detroit hasn't gone unnoticed by Dallas head coach Bill Parcells.

"They went to New York and won," said Parcells on Wednesday. "That's a big win. They've won some games on the road, something they hadn't been able to do in years past. Steve (Mariucci) came in and has them doing that - that's very important in the league to be able to do that."

Parcells also noted the Lions coming together as a team.

"Better players is one," mentioned Parcells. "I think they've gotten that. They're getting pretty solid play out of their defense. I just think that they're starting to put their team in place.

"It looks like they're starting to get some key pieces. Some of it looks much improved from last year as I recall."

Dallas has seemingly gone in a different direction.

Despite a playoff appearance, the Cowboys dismissed their starting quarterback, Quincy Carter, during a controversial off-season move. Carter threw three touchdown passes against Detroit last year. Dallas' starting running back in 2003, Troy Hambrick, was shipped to Arizona.

After the additions of veteran quarterback Vinny Testeverde, former Titans' running back Eddie George and the never-shy Keyshawn Johnson, the result has been underwhelming. And on Sunday, the Cowboys will be short leading receiver Terry Glenn due to injury.

Glenn was on the receiving end of each of Carter's three touchdown passes last year.

But in spite of the Cowboys' struggles, Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci isn't takign Dallas lightly.

"Every team in the league is going to have some high points and some downs," said Mariucci "We (faced) Green Bay when they were supposed to be down. We were down after the Packer game. Pro teams, professionals, seem to find a way to bow up and play well. It happens all the time. When an athlete's back is against the wall they find a way to fight out of it and perform well.

"Again, we're expecting Dallas' best effort. Hopefully we can have our best effort and play this game. Records mean nothing, keep that in mind."

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