Lions face surging Cowboys and their 'Big Three'

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
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Even before Sunday's showdown against the Packers, the Lions were guaranteed a playoff spot in the NFC. A win would have given them a first-round bye, but the 30-20 loss at Green Bay dropped them to a wild-card spot and the No. 6 seed.

That means they'll play the third-seeded Cowboys 4:40 p.m. Sunday in the opening round of the NFL playoffs. Dallas dismantled Washington, 44-17, early Sunday to clinch the No. 3 seed.

The Cowboys (12-4), who won the NFC East Division, finished the season winning six of their last seven and surpassed the Eagles, who missed the playoffs.

Behind their new "Big Three" of quarterback Tony Romo, running back DeMarco Murray and receiver Dez Bryant, the Cowboys are one of the hottest teams in the league entering the playoffs. It's reminiscent of the two-time Super Bowl champions in 1992-93, with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

The offense is one of the most prolific in the league, with Murray — who had 100 yards and a touchdown Sunday. The Cowboys have the No. 2 rushing offense in the league and Murray set the franchise single-season record, with 1,845 yards. Murray had at least 100 yards The Lions had the No. 1 rush defense and didn't allow a 100-yard rusher this season until the Packers' Eddie Lacy on Sunday, so Murray could have a rough road next week.

Bryant presents a problem at receiver, with a 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame. He had 1,320 receiving yards on 84 catches and a franchise-record 16 touchdowns. Add tight end Jason Witten (64 catches, 703 yards, five TD) and the passing attack is formidable behind Romo.

Romo, who was recovering from injuries and looked to be heading for a mediocre season, bounced back with a very solid year, completing more than 70 percent of his passes, with 3,705 yards and 34 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.

The Cowboys defense is ranked 23rd against the pass (248.1 yards) and ninth against the run (103.1 yards). Safety Barry Church is the leading tackler and added two interceptions.

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