Lions' unlikely story rolls on


PONTIAC, Mich. -- They're sick. They're lame. And they're feeble.

But the Detroit Lions are still nobody's pushovers.

And now they're just one step away from the Super Bowl.

The Lions defied the logic of the experts and the smugness of the Dallas Cowboys as they hammered out a 38-6 victory yesterday in their NFC divisional playoff game before 78,290 at the Silverdome.

The win sends the Lions into the NFC championship game next Sunday at RFK Stadium -- where they have never won -- against the Washington Redskins, who beat them 45-0 in the season opener.

So maybe it will take a miracle to get them to Super Bowl XXVI, but that's what most of the experts thought about the Lions' chances against Dallas.

The Cowboys arrived on a six-game winning streak, with the NFL's leading rusher Emmitt Smith and two hot quarterbacks -- Steve Beuerlein starting and Troy Aikman at the ready.

And the poor, woebegone Lions came in more beat up than the drummer, the fife player and the flag carrier in the Spirit of '76.


Quarterback Erik Kramer -- defamed as a "scab" by Cowboys defensive tackle Tony Casillas -- had the day of a lifetime with 29 completions in 38 attempts for 341 yards and three touchdowns.

Wide receiver Willie Green, who was popping Tums to settle an upset stomach all afternoon, caught eight passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

Herman Moore, who had only 11 receptions his entire rookie season, caught six for 87 yards and a touchdown.

And running back Barry Sanders, the object of the Cowboys' defensive attention all afternoon, applied the finishing touch with a 47-yard touch down run midway through the fourth quarter.

Cornerback Melvin Jenkins scored on a 41-yard interception return and Eddie Murray handled the rest of the scoring with a 36-yard field goal.

"I said six weeks ago, and a lot of people wondered what I was talking about, but I think I was right," Detroit coach Wayne Fontes said. "This team has a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

"They're going to say we can't win in Washington, too, but we have to go. The game has to be played."

The Cowboys, victims of a 34-10 regular-season loss to the Lions Oct. 27, managed only two 28-yard field goals by Ken Willis against the Lions' undermanned but determined defense.

Give them credit for being right on one subject, though: All week the Cowboys maintained they weren't really 24 points worse than the Lions.

They were right: They were 31 points worse than the Lions and all of their confident talk came back to haunt them.

Casillas and linebacker Jack Del Rio made reference to Kramer as a "scab" for playing for Atlanta in the 1987 strike games. And Casillas vowed that Kramer wouldn't beat the Cowboys.

"I took it as a challenge," Kramer said. "They called me out. They said, 'This guy's not going to beat us.' I'm glad things worked out like they did."

In fact, Fontes and offensive coordinator Dave Levy gambled that the Cowboys would concentrate on stopping Sanders and that Kramer could beat them.

"We looked over the first game and saw a couple of things they did," Levy explained. "We said, 'Let's throw the football.' "

When the Cowboys didn't change their defense at halftime, the Lions just kept throwing. And moving the football. And scoring. And winning.

"We said at the halftime, 'If they don't change, we won't change,' " Levy said. "They didn't change and we didn't change."

On 14 first downs in the first half, the Lions called 14 pass plays. Kramer was sacked once, one pass was dropped and he completed 11.

On the Lions' first possession, Kramer went 4-for-4 for 68 yards, including the 31-yard touchdown pass to Green over Dallas strong safety Ray Horton.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad