It wasn't exactly "Man Bites Dog." The Detroit Lions losing on the road was hardly news, front-page or otherwise. The Lions had done that 25 straight times even before Sunday. In itself, the 26th drew only yawns.
The news was what the Cowboys didn't do. They didn't lose the type of game they almost certainly would have lost as recently as two weeks ago. That represents tangible progress, and that's newsworthy in Dallas in 2010.
Admit it. At 12-7 Detroit early in the third, following the safety resulting from Leonard Davis' end zone holding penalty, you feared the worst. So did I.
But there is a new, evident, cool, ice-blue Dallas composure that focuses on the next play rather than the last one. That is the very definition of what Tom Landry used to call "mental toughness." A two-week aberration? Undetermined. And its immediate manifestation yielded merely another Lion road failure. Dog bites man.
Still, don't dismiss its significance. Consider the TD that put the Cowboys ahead to stay. Alert, instead of out-to-lunch. Aggressive rather than cowed.
A Cowboy player who not only knows a slightly obscure rule, but ruthlessly exploits it?
How long has this been going on?
Roy Dollar. That was the first person I thought of when Bryan McCann grabbed a punt--after it had been touched by Lions coverage team demon John Wendling--and was well on his way to a 97-yard touchdown return before the Lions knew what was happening.
Roy Dollar was my high school head coach. Coach Dollar was one of those "kicking game" true believers who knew, and stressed, every special teams nuance and loophole. We'd spend hours in the Central Texas summer sun repping punts and punt returns (and cussing under our breaths). Not a day went by that Coach Dollar didn't drive it into our heads. "Pick it up and take off! Once that ball has been touched but not killed by a member of the kicking team, it's a free pass! Even if you fumble it, we keep the ball! You got nothing to lose. Pick it up!"
I was thinking about Coach Dollar before McCann got to midfield.
Smart, alert, aggressive, knowledgeable, well-coached Cowboy players. Including a rookie. How long has this been going on?
Again, full disclosure time. Yes, I was having another disturbing case of deja vu after Detroit closed to 21-19 late in the third. I didn't need to worry. New ice-blue Cowboy composure prevailed.
Nobody's "cooler" than Jon Kitna. His second TD completion to Miles Austin, followed by Kitna's franchise quarterback record-tying 29 yard bootleg score, sealed the deal.
More impressive than Kitna's arm, legs or savvy is his demeanor. Watch Kitna relate to his teammates, Number Nine. Learn something.
Ultimately, all that happened Sunday is that the Detroit Lions lost a road game. But the ongoing Dateline Arlington story could become more newsworthy, starting Thursday.