Game Day: Lions (4-5) at Cowboys (6-3)

SERIES: 18th regular-season meeting between the Lions and Cowboys, with Dallas holding a 9-8 edge. The teams are 1-1 in playoff meetings. This is the second consecutive year they will meet in Texas Stadium. Complete indepth preview inside, including team notes, stats, injury updates and more.

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Detroit Lions (4-5) at Dallas Cowboys (6-3)
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GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/20/05
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
SERIES: 18th regular-season meeting between the Lions and Cowboys, with Dallas holding a 9-8 edge. The teams are 1-1 in playoff meetings. This is the second consecutive year they will meet in Texas Stadium. The Cowboys won last year's game, 31-21.
2005 RANKINGS: Lions: offense 27th (23rd rush, 25th pass); defense 14th (13th rush, 15th pass). Cowboys: offense 12th (14th rush, 10th pass); defense 6th (10th rush, 12th pass)

PREDICTION: Cowboys 23-14

KEYS TO THE GAME: Running the ball effectively won't guarantee the Lions a victory, but the lack of a strong ground game would be fatal. They are 4-1 when they out-rush their opponents and 0-4 when they do not. With the Cowboys likely to continue the trend of a heavy pass rush and blitzing against the Lions, Detroit can't afford to get QBs Jeff Garcia or Joey Harrington stuck in long passing situations. WR Roy Williams was a major presence last Sunday, while the Cowboys aren't sure if CB Anthony Henry will be ready to return from a groin injury. Dallas' offensive balance could prove too much for the Lions, who must stop the run early so they can come after QB Drew Bledsoe. That will be a better possibility with DT Shaun Rogers healthier and able to clog the middle. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells indicated RB Julius Jones could be back in the starting lineup, although rookie Marion Barber will continue to get significant playing time.

FAST FACTS: Lions: Have not won consecutive games. ... Three of five losses have been by six points or less. Cowboys: Bledsoe needs three touchdown passes to pass George Blanda (236) and Jim Kelly (237) for 15th place all-time. ... Bledsoe is completing a career-high 64.6 percent of his passes.

PERSONNEL NEWS:
Lions:

  • QB Jeff Garcia, recovering from injuries to his previously broken left leg, got less work with the Lions' first offense Thursday, leading to speculation he might miss his third consecutive game. If Garcia is unable to play, Joey Harrington will get the start, but coach Steve Mariucci has indicated he won't decide until late in the week.

  • QB Joey Harrington, coming off one of the best games in his four-year NFL career, got most of the reps in the Lions' practice Thursday. Harrington is considered the No. 2 QB to Jeff Garcia, but Garcia's left leg -- broken in the final preseason game -- isn't 100 percent, and he has missed the last two games.

  • SLB Boss Bailey missed a second consecutive day of practice Thursday because of his sprained right ankle but he has not been ruled out for the Lions' game Sunday at Dallas. With MLB Earl Holmes and backup SLB Teddy Lehman not expected to play, Bailey might be pressed into duty if he's able to practice Friday or Saturday.

  • MLB Earl Holmes hasn't been ruled out for the Lions' game Sunday at Dallas, but he missed a second day of practice Thursday with a sprained knee. It appears unlikely he will be able to play.

  • WR Scott Vines, who was the Lions' top receiver while they went through a rash of injuries and Charles Rogers' drug suspension, was rested Thursday while the Lions practiced. Vines has a calf injury and played Sunday against Arizona, but the injury is still bothering him, and he might not be ready for the upcoming game at Dallas.

Cowboys:

  • CB Anthony Henry practiced Thursday and is close being cleared to play against the Lions on Sunday. He missed the Eagles game with a torn groin.

  • CB Aaron Glenn proved a capable replacement for the injured Anthony Henry last week and has been a good teacher to fellow cornerback Terence Newman. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells is not surprised with Glenn's success. "Hey, God was good to him," Parcells said. "Really was. He's still got the quickness. He can still run. He's plenty fast enough."

  • C Andre Gurode should get more playing time in combination with starting center Al Johnson because of Detroit's bulky defensive line, which includes Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson. Gurode is bigger than Johnson and has a better chance of getting some movement up front.

  • LB Bradie James is having a breakout season after being a disappointment last year. He leads the Cowboys with 57 tackles and is coming off his best outing of 15 tackles, a sack and two pass deflections against the Eagles.
    "Work has never been his problem," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "He's very diligent. He doesn't have a lazy bone in his body. He's never been late for anything. He's never missed anything. He's a very good teammate. He's all of those things. You just have to learn how to do it, and it took him a little while to learn. But I think it will be onward and upward now.
    "He had 15 tackles the other night. So he's getting some pretty good production. I'm happy with him. He's improved his pass defense. He can still play good on special teams. I think he's going to be OK."

INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Lions:
    Joey Harrington is emerging as the most likely starting quarterback for the Lions' game Sunday at Dallas, but coach Steve Mariucci wasn't ready to make any pronouncements Thursday.
    Perhaps he is holding out hope that Jeff Garcia will be healthy enough to reclaim the job, or perhaps he just wants to keep coach Bill Parcells and the Cowboys guessing. But Mariucci was keeping his thoughts to himself.
    Harrington and Garcia got pretty close to a 50-50 split in the practice reps Wednesday, and Garcia said he was feeling less discomfort in his left fibula, which was broken Sept. 2. But when the team returned to work Thursday, Harrington got the majority of snaps and Garcia got more time to rest and watch.
    "He is not completely back yet, (not) completely healthy," Mariucci said. "He is getting better, but he is not quite there yet."
    That being the case, Mariucci was asked why he didn't just name Harrington the starter.
    "Because I don't want to yet," he said.
    Although Harrington is coming off one of the best games in his four-year NFL career, Mariucci obviously feels that Garcia gives him a better chance of winning, perhaps because of his ability to keep a play alive with his legs and his familiarity with the West Coast offense.
    In the two games Garcia played before leaving the lineup with pain in his left leg, he completed 65.2 percent of his 69 throws. However, he didn't throw a touchdown pass against either Cleveland or Chicago, and the Bears returned an interception for a touchdown to beat the Lions in overtime Oct. 20.
    Harrington, despite his 21 runs for 64 yards, is primarily a pocket passer. And -- considering the Lions' inability to protect the quarterback -- that might be a concern for Mariucci going into the game against a good Dallas defense.
Mariucci said he doesn't believe it is detrimental to the Lions not to know until late in the week whether they will be playing with Harrington or Garcia.
    "No, not really," he said. "But you are right, they are different styles. If one is playing better than the other, there are only a handful of plays that would really be dialed up differently in the game.
    "We are going to run the same set of game plans, and we might do a little bit more of something with Jeff versus Joey, but it is not that much different."

Cowboys:
    Cowboys running back Julius Jones likely will return to the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Lions.
    But the Jones who rushed for 803 yards in the final eight games last season will not be returning.
    Jones, who missed three games with an ankle injury before carrying the ball eight times for 16 yards against Eagles on Monday, is still not yet 100 percent.
    "No, I'm not 100 percent right now," Jones said. "But I'm good enough to go. I'm not making any excuses or anything. But right now, I'd have to say no, I'm not 100 percent."
    Jones still has trouble getting in and out his cuts with explosion.
    Until he gets fully healed and maybe even afterward, he will share time with rookies Marion Barber and Tyson Thompson.
Barber, who has impressed coach Bill Parcells with his ability to run, block and catch, has started the past two games. He will continue to be the team's third-down back.
    "Why don't you call them utility guys?" Parcells said. "Utility A, B and C. I told you I am going to use all those guys. Don't give one guy the ball 40 times, if I've got an option. If I don't have any option sometimes, you have to do it. I told you I ruined a back doing that once."
    Jones said he just wants to get back on the field and make plays to help the team win.
    But he does admit to having a little motivation to show his stuff against Detroit on Sunday, Denver on Thanksgiving Day and St. Louis in the season finale, to prove he was the best back in the 2004 draft class that included Kevin Jones of the Lions, Tatum Bell of the Broncos and Steven Jackson of the Rams.
    All three were picked ahead of Jones, who was expected to have a breakout year coming into the season, based on last season's finish.
With 423 yards and no 100-yard games, Jones is bringing up the rear in 2005. Kevin Jones has 462 yards. Jackson has 729 yards and six touchdowns. Bell has 606 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
    "It's a competitive thing," Jones said. "They were all drafted ahead of me. Who is the best back of the class?"

 


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