ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The best news for the Detroit Lions right now is that they won't have to wait long for their next game.
Dallas beat Detroit 35-19 on Sunday after a fluky punt return gave the Cowboys a much-needed boost. The defeat was the Lions' 26th in a row on the road, but they don't have to worry about that streak this week since they'll be playing at home on Thanksgiving against New England.
Because the Lions have so little time to prepare for the Patriots, they've spent even less time than usual dwelling on a frustrating loss in Dallas.
"You have a 24-hour rule. That 24 hours passed about 72 hours ago," coach Jim Schwartz said.
Based on that timeline, the Lions were supposed to get over the Dallas game before they even played it — but everything is rushed during this short week.
"You need to transition right away," Schwartz said. "If not, you're going to be behind in your preparation for New England."
Shaun Hill will start again for Detroit in place of injured Matthew Stafford. Hill threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, but the Lions couldn't hold onto a 12-7 third-quarter lead.
The turning point came on a Detroit punt, when the Lions' John Wendling jumped just before the goal line and tapped the ball toward the field. Instead of going to a teammate who could have downed it inside the 5-yard line, the ball went straight to Dallas' Bryan McCann, who instinctively caught it and began running — past the startled Lions and all the way to the end zone for a 97-yard touchdown.
The play epitomized Detroit's struggles for most of the past decade. Wendling made the right play, but the result was still a disaster. McCann was taking a risk by even being in the area.
"That player in a lot of cases is coached not to even be there," Schwartz said. "If you're down in there and the ball hits you — without the punting team hitting it — all of a sudden we're recovering it for a touchdown."
But even if McCann was in the wrong place, it was at the right time, and the Lions (2-8) never regained the lead.
Later, another break went against Detroit when Ndamukong Suh was called for a horse-collar tackle after grabbing Marion Barber's dreadlocks. Hair-pulling isn't against the rules.
Instead of facing third-and-goal from the 11, the Cowboys got a new set of downs and eventually scored a touchdown to take a 28-19 lead.
"That was a huge, huge play in this game," Schwartz said. "They're going to go third-and-goal from the 11. ... A field goal, we're down five."
Detroit was called for 10 penalties for 76 yards.
"(Stephen) Peterman got called on a block that was very, very similar to a block that they made on us in the fourth quarter," Schwartz said. "Same play — a little wide receiver screen — the exact same block. Ours got called, there's didn't. ... If your object is to go out and get no penalties in a game, you're never going to play aggressively enough to win."Comment on this story
Penalties aren't the only source of Detroit's difficulties. Stafford has played only one full game this season, hurting the same shoulder twice, and rookie running back Jahvid Best is limited by a toe injury.
Even so, the Lions have been outscored by only three points total on the season. The Dallas loss was actually their most lopsided, and Detroit was in the game in the fourth quarter. The Lions will now try to turn around and play the Patriots tough as well.
"We had a frustrating loss yesterday, and it seems like it was last week already," defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "I don't know that we can play harder. ... It's not that this team doesn't have urgency."