Game Day Preview: Have Lions Learned Their Lesson?

By: Mike Fowler - Lions Insider <i>Oct. 30, 2004</i><br> "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." The Detroit Lions got fooled big time by the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago. On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys present a similar dilemma. Can the Lions respond this time around? Lions' insider Mike Fowler previews the match-up.

LAST MEETING: Detroit 7, Dallas 38 (2003)
INJURY REPORT: DETROIT - LB Boss Bailey (knee) and LB Donté Curry (knee) are out. CB Fernando Bryant (groin), LB James Davis (knee), WR Az-Zahir Hakim (ankle), FB Cory Schlesinger (hamstring) and WR Roy Williams (ankle) are questionable. DT Marcus Bell (shoulder) and DT Dan Wilkinson (upper arm) are probable.
DALLAS - WR Terry Glenn (foot) and RB Julius Jones (shoulder) are out. WR Quincy Morgan (hamstring) is questionable. DE Greg Ellis (foot) and RB ReShard Lee (shoulder) are probable.

(ALLEN PARK) - "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

The Detroit Lions got fooled big time by the Green Bay Packers. It looked for all intents and purposes as if the Packers were dead, sporting a 1-4 record when they faced the 3-1 Lions.

Instead, the Packers rebounded big time, handing the Lions arguably their worse defeat of the season in a 38-10 shellacking that had some Lions fans calling out Joey Harrington for having the worst game of his career.

Have the Detroit Lions players learned their lesson?

Detroit goes into this contest against a wounded Dallas Cowboys team that comes into this game sporting a 2-4 record after being throughly thrashed, 41-20 by the Packers last week.

Dallas appeared to have shot itself in the foot when it elected to cut quarterback Quincy Carter, rather than work through his problems. Carter was well liked and provided a measure of leadership despite his personal problems. Veteran Vinny Testaverde hasn't played poorly, in fact, Testaverde has been one of the bright spots for the Cowboys to date, but Carter's presence seems to be missed.

The loss of veteran safety Darren Woodson (back), the glue that held together the Dallas defense appears to be just as costly. But Dallas is still dangerous, especially in Texas Stadium and the Lions shouldn't expect them to roll over. Lions head coach Steve Mariucci was asked if he expects an "all or nothing" game from Dallas.

"I don't know if I believe in an 'all or nothing' effort," said Mariucci. "I know it is an important game (for the Cowboys) to get back in the winning column. You're going to be able to say that about a lot of teams that have lost a few or fallen out of first place. Each week you've got a team that's trying to win, whether it is to stay in front or get off the bottom, you are going to get great efforts from these teams."

The Cowboys have been hit hard by injuries in their receiving corps. Starter Terry Glenn (foot) is likely out of this Sunday's game leaving Keyshawn Johnson the only healthy starter. After trading disgruntled Antonio Bryant to the Browns for Quincy Morgan, Dallas threw Morgan right into the fray against Green Bay. Morgan is questionable this week with a hamstring injury.

The Cowboys will likely give the Lions a steady dose of Eddie George (72 carries, 250 yards, rank #17) and Richie Anderson (average 5.5 per carry) in an effort to control the clock and wear down the Lions front seven. Led by the NFC's player of the week Shaun Rogers, the Lions have shown an ability to stop the run, but this is a different group. The Cowboys massive front line is led by two potential hall of fame players in guard Larry Allen and tackle Flozell Adams. Allen may be the one player in the league capable of handling Rogers one-on-one. That leaves tackle Dan Wilkinson (hampered by flu-like symptoms) to face double team blocking. If the Cowboys are successful running the ball in the interior of the Detroit defense, that sets up play action to Johnson and Morgan.

Detroit wants to continue taking the ball away from opposing teams. The Lions rank third in the league in giveaway/takeaway ratio at +8.

Dre' Bly, coming off an uncharacterstic off-game for him vs. New York will likely be matched up with the Cowboys' Morgan while running mate Fernando Bryant will draw the more physical Johnson.

The "X" factor in the Cowboys attack is the tight end Jason Whitten (30 catches, 307 yards). Detroit historically has had problems handling the opposition's tight end, but linebacker Teddy Lehman did a credible job against Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey.

If Detroit can stuff the run and make Dallas throw to their limited receiving corps, the Lions defense will have a chance to get off the field and give the ball back to their offense.

Don't mistake the Lions poor offensive stats as a sign that they can't score points. Detroit continues to play it close to the vest as coach Mariucci believes that gives them the best chance to stay in games and win them at the end.

The Lions could have fullback Cory Schlesinger, wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim and corner Fernando Bryant all back from injury. If so, Detroit will be in great shape to get their fourth straight road win. Rookie running back Kevin Jones would benefit greatly from a healthy Schlesinger as a lead blocker, but his presence is doubtful.

Detroit has decided to be stubborn about establishing their run game. That makes sense. When Detroit is able to run the ball effectively it makes Roy Williams (24 catches, 362 yards) even more dangerous.

Williams is the one player on the Lions offense that forces the defense to account for his presence. Mariucci says he has observed that teams are reluctant to commit an extra safety to the "box" when Williams is on the field. Over the first six games, Williams has proven to be a money receiver for Detroit catching five of quarterback Joey Harrington's ten touchdown passes.

Harrington was sensational in Detroit's win over the New York Giants, going 18-of-22 for 230 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions. Sporting the NFC's third best passer rating, the third-year veteran is showing signs of leadership and play-making ability that have been missing since Detroit drafted him third overall.

The Lions quarterback has been spreading the ball to all of his receivers including tight end Stephen Alexander and split end Tai Streets who had been overlooked earlier in the Lions attack.

Dallas plans to blitz Harrington early and often, making the presence of a healthy Wililams on the field a must. Mariucci said that Williams' availability for this one, still is not a certainty.

"We'll have to determine that. Sometimes, as you know, an ankle or a knee or any sort of sprain can nag if you continually play on it. We're trying to freshen it up in between games and see if we can get a little bit of practice time with him. We have a few more days still. I would like to play him (this weekend)."

Reserve Reggie Swinton would love nothing more than to rub salt into the wound of the Dallas team that released him a season ago. Swinton got his first TD catch of the season and jokingly said he's ready to go into "T.O. (Terrell Owens)" mode if he catches another touchdown this week.

While Detroit will play it close to the vest again and hope their defense can key another win, they can't afford to go into total shutdown mode. They have to take their chances.

What would happen if Detroit needed kicker Jason Hanson (4-of-6 in field goal attempts) to win a game down the stretch? Hanson has had few chances to kick any field goals, much less a game winner. Dallas' Billy Cundiff (7-of-9) hasn't fared much better making the kicking game for both sides unpredicatable. This game could be close enough that it matters.

While Detroit's Nick Harris has rebounded to get into the middle of the pack among NFC punters, Dallas Mat McBriar is among the league's worst (rank 15 of 16). Detroit's Eddie Drummond could take advantage to give Detroit a short field, something the Lions haven't always taken advantage of.

Dallas will attempt to circle the wagons in what appears to be a near must-win situation. Detroit is trying to gain some consistency in their effort and performance. "We have to do everything exactly the same way every week," said guard Damien Woody. Then carry it on to the field. We can't have a good week of practice and then not have it carry on the field like we did against Green Bay. "

Point well taken. Detroit 17 - Dallas 14

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