Lions 15, Cowboys 10

Sunday, January 6th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) _ 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 straight 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 the Cowboys on their two final possessions.

``It's very sour,'' Smith said.

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

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

When Smith was told he's just 539 away from the mark, which has stood since 1987, he didn't want to admit that he should surpass the total next season.

``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.

Lots of exposed steel, a sea of concrete, an inflated fiberglass roof _ and no championships _ were the reasons the last game at the Silverdome did not move fans to tears.

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.

Numerous Lions players shook hands and slapped hands with fans for about 10 minutes after the game.

Detroit's Luther Elliss said his favorite and least-favorite memories were from the regular-season finale in 1997 against the New York Jets.

The Lions earned a playoff bid, Sanders became the third player in NFL history to go over 2,000 yards and Reggie Brown had a career-ending neck injury.

``The fans were so loud that the turf was shaking,'' Elliss said.

The Lions (2-14) 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 straight 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 with a 1-15 record.

``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.''

Detroit's go-ahead drive started with Cory Schlesinger's 20-yard run and Aveion Cason's 19-yard run. After Schlesinger ran for 2 yards on a third-and-1 at the Dallas 18, Detmer connected with Morton for the touchdown. The 2-point conversion failed.

The sold-out crowd went wild as Morton dropped to the turf after the touchdown and undulated his body with a dance called ``The Centipede.''

Safety Marty Carter intercepted Quincy Carter's long lob at Detroit's 19 to hurt Dallas' comeback hopes.

The Cowboys got the ball back on their 40 with 3:23 left, but turned the ball over on downs less than a minute later.

Detmer, subbing for injured rookie Mike McMahon for the second game, was 24-of-40 for 242 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. Morton caught eight passes for 86 yards and a TD.

Carter was 11-of-26 for 158 yards and one interception.

On the same possession the 32-year-old Smith surpassed the 1,000-yard mark, Jon Hilbert's 33-yard kick gave the Cowboys a 10-9 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Smith scored on a 2-yard run for his 159th touchdown, which trails only Jerry Rice's total.

Detroit drove 80 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive, which ended with Detmer's 20-yard pass to David Sloan.

Hanson's 47-yard field goal gave Detroit a 9-7 lead on the first drive of the second half.

Detroit set an NFL record by losing nine consecutive games by eight or fewer points. On Sunday, they stayed away from the miscues that caused those losses.

``That is how you win a football game,'' Detroit's first-year coach Marty Mornhinweg said. ``No turnovers, one penalty and no sacks.''