- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2011

ARLINGTON, TEXAS (AP) - Once upon a time, the Detroit Lions won a playoff game.

Yes, one. This franchise has only a single victory in the entire Super Bowl era, and they’ve been around for the whole thing.

At least it was a good win, taking down a Dallas Cowboys squad featuring Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, just before they won three Super Bowls in four years.

But this isn’t a story about ancient history.

This is about the Lions potentially being on the verge of something big _ not necessarily three-titles-in-four-years big, but certainly bigger than one playoff win every 40 to 50 years.

Led by a quarterback who grew up in Dallas during those Aikman, Smith and Irvin glory days, a receiver who might be the best in the NFL and a rapidly maturing defense, Detroit is a team on the rise.

The Lions head to Cowboys Stadium on Sunday seeking another victory that could stamp them as a team to beat in the NFL this season _ that is, if they aren’t already. After all, Detroit is 3-0 and has the league’s longest winning streak, seven in a row.

“They’ve won 11 games straight if you include the preseason,” Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears said. “So they’re not slouches, not at all.”

Clearly, coming to grips with the idea of the Lions being a team to beat is easier for players than for fans, especially the players about to play Detroit.

This week, the Cowboys watched the Lions turn a 20-0 halftime deficit at Minnesota into an overtime victory, and saw their 48-3 pounding of Kansas City the previous week.

They’ve watched Matthew Stafford _ a native of Highland Park, an affluent Dallas suburb _ throw two touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson in all three games, and Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch pressure quarterbacks.

“You see their talent over there?” Dallas safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. “They have all the tools. I guess now they’re putting it together.”

The Cowboys are still trying to figure out how good they might be.

They’re 2-1 and part of a three-way tie atop the NFC East, a burgeoning turnaround of their own after a 1-7 start that doomed them last season.

But every game has been an adventure _ and all decided by a field goal or fewer. Their past six games last season also were that tight, the longest such stretch in NFL history. Dallas is 5-4 in that stretch, and proud of it.

Story Continues →