Cowboys escape Lions

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

As part of a Halloween Day halftime show yesterday, a pair of hearses were rolled on to the Texas Stadium field.

The easy punchline for fuming Dallas fans was that they were in the house to cart away the carcass of a lost season.

But it was a little early for the Grim Reaper to arrive here in Irving, Tex.

The Cowboys survived three Vinny Testaverde interceptions -- two of them on messed up routes by Keyshawn Johnson -- for a 31-21 win over the Detroit Lions.

At 3-4, it hardly makes the 'Boys Super Bowl contenders, but it may get coach Bill Parcells off their back for a week.

Or not.

Parcells was plenty grumpy after the sloppy effort against an equally untidy opponent.

"That's just one, we're going to need several more of those if we're going to get anything done," Parcells said. "Hopefully we can take this and pick up a couple more wins to get us into some important games later in the season."

To their credit, Testaverde and Johnson redeemed themselves by hooking up for a pair of touchdown tosses. And the quarterback scored a third on a three-yard keeper in the third quarter, Testaverde's first rushing major since 1998.

"Everything's not better here now, but at least we are headed the right way," said tight end Jason Witten, who had nine catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. "(A 2-5 record) would have been a big hole to climb out of."

The Cowboys entered the game with three successive losses and cries for running back Eddie George to get the ball more and Testaverde less.

Parcells rightly dismissed the notion of letting rookie Drew Henson get the ball, but he did call George's number more. The former Tennessee Titan responded by running for 99 yards on 31 clock-eating carries, his most work as a Cowboy.

"I appreciated the opportunity," said George, who had lobbied for it through the media. "All I wanted when I came here was to contribute in as many ways as possible."

In the opening 30 minutes, miscommunication between Testaverde and Johnson indirectly resulted in a 10 and possibly a 14-point difference in a half that ended in a 14-14 tie.

On the first, Johnson stopped in the middle of a short route and Testaverde's toss ended up in the chest of Lions cornerback Dre Bly, who returned it 55 yards for a touchdown.

The next came with 21 seconds remaining in the half.

Faced with first and goal on the Lions nine, set up by a 55-yard punt return by Neil Fraser, Testaverde threw it right at the Lions' Brock Marion, who gladly accepted the gift.

"I can't run around for guys, I can't block, I can't catch," Testaverde said. "Sometimes, things like that happen and the quarterback's going to get blamed. Been there before."

The Lions certainly weren't helped by the fact that receiver Roy Williams was out of the picture. The Oddessa, Tex., native and former Texas Longhorn star was made inactive due to an ankle injury.

The other Roy Williams, the one who plays safety for the Cowboys, made his presence felt with several big hits and knocked down passes.

A particularly brutal clocking of Lions receiver Tai Streets early in the second quarter seemed to fire up the Dallas defence and rile up the sellout crowd of 63,616.

"When (Streets) came up to the line, I knew he was going to come up the middle," Williams said. "I told him to go ahead and try it. The game was on from that point."

And the Dallas death march was put on hold for now.


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