Bill Parcells had hoped to get the Dallas Cowboys turned around by his third year as head coach. He seems to be ahead of schedule.
The Cowboys look to start the season 5-1 for the first time since 1995 as they visit the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
Dallas has won four straight since losing to the Atlanta Falcons in its season opener. The Cowboys are atop the NFC East, ahead of second-place Washington which is 3-3.
The fast start has Dallas players and fans both thinking big things for a team that finished 5-11 in each of the last three seasons.
“This is a new era,” quarterback Quincy Carter said. “This is a new football team. Coach Parcells has brought a whole new toughness to this team.”
Dallas snapped a six-game losing streak against Philadelphia on Sunday with a 23-21 victory on Billy Cundiff’s 28-yard field goal with 1:11 left.
The Cowboys started fast, when Randal Williams foiled an onside kick by returning it 37 yards for a touchdown. Dallas was ahead after just three seconds, the fastest score to begin a game since the NFL began using a scoreboard clock in 1970.
Carter offset shaky numbers—14-of-25 for a season-low 146 yards—with a blitz-beating, third-down pass to Joey Galloway that kept alive the winning drive.
Despite their record, Parcells does not want his players to become overconfident with two-thirds of the season left to play.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Parcells.
Dallas has built its record against weak opponents, as their first five games have been against teams that have a combined 7-20 record. After the Lions, their next six opponents are currently 22-11 and none have a losing record.
The Cowboys have limited their mistakes on offense and taken advantage of their opponents mistakes with an aggressive defense.
Dallas is second in the NFL, and leads the NFC, allowing just 259 yards per game. The Cowboys have five interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
Dallas has a good shot at notching its fifth win against a woeful Lions team.
Some thought Detroit head coach Steve Mariucci could have had a similar effect on the Lions as Parcells has with the Cowboys. But it hasn’t worked out that way thus far.
Detroit began the season with a win over Arizona before losing its next four. The Lions, who are coming off a bye, have lost their last two games by a total of 11 points.
Detroit lost 20-16 at Denver on Sept. 28, and 24-17 at San Francisco on Oct. 5.
The Lions have one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL, allowing 238.8 yards per game for 25th in the league.
The Lions could have a hard time containing the Cowboys’ talented trio of receivers.
Detroit suffered a big blow to its offense when rookie wide out Charles Rogers broke his collarbone in practice last week. The second overall selection in this year’s draft was leading the Lions with 22 receptions, 243 receiving yards and three touchdowns before the injury.
He is expected to miss at least a month.
Injuries have also sidelined Detroit’s top running back, James Stewart, kick returner Eddie Drummond and the team’s No. 2 and 3 cornerbacks, Chris Cash and Andre Goodman.