PONTIAC, Mich. — Two weeks ago, owner William Clay Ford went public and called the Detroit Lions lousy. This week, in private, Ford had a better idea, and it seemed to work.
Garry James scored the tie-breaking touchdown on a four-yard run with 12:33 left Sunday and the Lions beat the Dallas Cowboys, 27-17.
"Mr. Ford came in during the week and said to put everything behind us, that we've got an eight-game season right now," said quarterback Chuck Long of the Lions (2-6), who notched his first NFL win as a starter.
James Griffin's 29-yard return with a fourth-quarter interception set up James' scoring run.
Griffin had two of the Lions' four interceptions against Dallas quarterback Danny White.
"We did the things we should have and should be able to do," Griffin said. "It wasn't necessarily Dallas. It was just a game that we needed to win."
The victory snapped an eight-game losing streak by Detroit's regulars who lost their last four games of 1986.
"We haven't had a lot of things thrown at us each day strictly about football," Detroit Coach Darryl Rogers said. "So, it's a tribute to the players to play the way they did and keep battling."
Dallas (4-4) appeared flat after an emotional Monday night win over the New York Giants.
"Traditionally, after a Monday night game, we come up flat," Cowboy Coach Tom Landry said. "There's really no reason for it."
With the score tied 17-17 early in the fourth quarter, Dallas safety Bill Bates intercepted Long's pass for James Jones in the end zone.
But on the next play, Griffin picked off White's pass intended for Rod Barksdale and returned it to the Dallas nine-yard line.
"We just weren't mentally alert, for whatever reasons," Landry said. "It became obvious during the beginning of the ballgame that we were going to struggle.
"Usually when you do that, when the fourth quarter comes around, you're not going to make the plays to win the ballgame."
After James' touchdown, a fumble by Tony Dorsett set up Eddie Murray's 19-yard field goal for the Lions's final points with 9:06 left.
Long completed 15 of 28 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown. Pete Mandley caught 8 passes for 97 yards and also had a 61-yard punt return which set up Detroit's first touchdown.