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Lions Discover a Silver Lining

January 07, 2002|From Associated Press

PONTIAC, Mich. — Personal accomplishments always seemed to overshadow the Detroit Lions' lack of success at the Silverdome.

The final game there was no different.

Emmitt Smith became the first running back to reach 1,000 yards in 11 consecutive seasons--breaking a record he shared with former Detroit star Barry Sanders--but the Lions beat Smith and the Dallas Cowboys, 15-10, Sunday to avoid a 15-loss season.

Ty Detmer threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Johnnie Morton with 5:37 left for the game-winner, and Detroit stopped Dallas' last two series to earn a consolation victory in a miserable 2-14 season.

Smith broke the record on a 13-yard run in his 13th carry late in the third quarter.

"It's very sour," he said.

Smith ran for 77 yards and a touchdown in 18 carries to finish his season with 1,021 and increase his career total to 16,187, 539 behind Walter Payton's 16,726.

"That's a long way to go," Smith said. "You just don't know how hard it is to get 100 yards in a game."

The Lions and their fans know how difficult it is to earn a playoff win because Detroit has only one--over the Cowboys in 1992--since winning the 1957 championship.

After playing 30 miles north of Detroit for 27 years, the Lions will return downtown next season to play at Ford Field, a new $315-million indoor stadium that will play host to the 2006 Super Bowl.

The Lions matched the worst mark in franchise history, and Dallas (5-11) finished with the same record for the second straight year.

Still, after starting the season with 12 consecutive losses, the Lions are happy just to blend in among the worst teams in NFL history instead of being the first 0-16 team or joining Carolina at 1-15.

"We pulled out two wins at the end of the year that no one else in the league cares about," Detroit kicker Jason Hanson said. "But they were nice wins."

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