Foster: Lions can go to Dallas and win

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Now comes the ultimate test for Lions coach Jim Caldwell and all the little passages, sayings and fables he tells his team every week.

If the Lions truly believe in their coach and his one-moment-at-a-time ways then the Lions could win their first playoff game since the 1991 season when they beat the Dallas Cowboys at the Pontiac Silverdome.

The Cowboys are up next and the Lions enter "Jerry's World" as a No. 6 seed. The No. 3 Cowboys (12-4) are not as ferocious as they appear.

The Lions can penetrate the Cowboys and win for three reasons.

* The Cowboys' strength is running the football. The Lions strength is stopping the run even though Green Bay ran for 150 yards during Sunday's 30-20 victory over the Lions at Lambeau Field.

* The Cowboys are better on the road where the pressures of Jerry Jones and a suffocating fan base can be overwhelming. This game is in the teeth of the dragon, in the middle of a rabid fan base where the Cowboys are just 4-4.

* And finally the Lions play defense and that gives them the best chance of winning a playoff game for the first time in more than 20 years. This team is capable of making a stop late in a game. Previous Lions teams were not capable of doing that.

Now if you are looking for a run beyond that, you can forget it. The Lions are not good enough to beat a quality opponent. The Cowboys lost to three non-playoff teams at home and ranked 16th in total defense while the Lions finished as the second-best defense in the league.

So there is a punchers chance even though running back DeMarco Murray and that offensive line carries a huge punch.

Few teams to fear

There are only two teams to fear in the NFC. They both will be sitting at home next weekend as top-seed Seattle (12-4) and the No. 2 seed Packers (12-4) enjoy bye weeks. Everybody else is flawed and vulnerable.

Caldwell can be the wild card. It is difficult for a team to lose an emotional game like the one in Green Bay, pack it all in and come out on fire the next week. But Caldwell has done a great job of mentally preparing the Lions all season. I don't know what he is selling, but his players are buying.

He will have something up his sleeve.

Now here is where my logic for victory becomes flawed. The Lions are quarterbacked by Matthew Stafford, who is 0-16 on the road against teams with winning records. He showed no signs of being a playoff winning quarterback against the Green Bay Packers or even the Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings. There is something wrong with this offense and it goes beyond Stafford.

Stafford and his receivers seem out of sync. Some of Stafford's bad throws are simply caused by bad throws. But there seems to be a lot of miscommunication on the field. You can see it on the sidelines when Stafford motions to where he thought receivers should be. And they bark back where they tell him where they thought he would throw it.

Cowboys will be overconfident

All of that can be overcome if the Lions believe enough in Caldwell who has them believing the impossible is possible. He is convincing and guided them to a one-play-at-a-time belief that led the Lions to their best regular-season record in 23 years.

That was the last time the Lions won a playoff game and history shows no signs of anything changing. However, this is the best Lions defense since.

During its season-ending four-game winning streak Dallas has scored 41, 38, 42 and 44 points. But this is a team that reads its press clippings and loses playoff games it has no business losing. The Cowboys won't be as dominating against the Lions mostly because they will enter this game believing they are better than they are.

I've already heard Terry Bradshaw say the Cowboys have momentum and will be hard to beat. OK. We've heard that before. The Cowboys last won a playoff game in 2009. The time before that was 1996.

Do not give up hope on your team. They got a chance because of Caldwell and a never die attitude.