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Cowboys fall to Lions, enter playoffs on two-game skid

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- No, losing to the Detroit Lions does not
revoke the playoff spot the Dallas Cowboys had already clinched.

It just means they're in a mess of trouble heading into what Bill Parcells likes to call "the tournament."

The stage is set. The Chiefs-Colts game in Indianapolis will kick off wild-card weekend on Saturday, with three games to follow. First-round byes go to the Chargers (No. 1 seed) and Ravens in the AFC, and the Bears (No. 1) and Saints in the NFC. This weekend's lineup:

SATURDAY
AFC: Chiefs at Colts, 4:30 ET (NBC)
NFC: Cowboys at Seahawks, 8 ET (NBC)

SUNDAY
AFC: Jets at Patriots, 1 ET (CBS)
NFC: Giants at Eagles, 4:30 ET (FOX)

• For the complete playoff schedule, click here.

Done in by repeated mistakes from Tony Romo and a few more by
Terence Newman, the Cowboys blew their chance to stay alive in the
NFC East title race and build some much-needed momentum for the playoffs
with a 39-31 loss to the lowly Lions on Sunday.

"I can't tell you how disappointed I am. I really can't,"
Parcells said, his tone more deflated than irate. "This is the low
point for me in a long time."

Detroit would've been better off losing this game and locking up
the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Now Oakland gets the top overall pick and the Lions will go second.

But even the Lions (3-13) couldn't refuse all the gifts the
Cowboys gave them, from a penalty on Newman wiping out an
interception return for a touchdown on the game's first snap to
Romo failing to scramble into the end zone from the 6-yard line on
the final play that mattered.

In between, Romo threw an interception and lost two fumbles,
Newman muffed a punt and there were plenty more mental errors by
their teammates.

"Too many things that beat you, we did today," Parcells said.

It could get worse Saturday night when the Cowboys (9-7) play a
first-round game at Seattle.

Dallas goes into the playoffs on its first two-game losing
streak of the season and having dropped three of four. There are
plenty of reasons for it, from Romo looking more like a career
backup than a Pro Bowler, to the defense being at its worst.

The Cowboys have allowed 132 points the last four games, the
exact amount they gave up the previous eight games. Realizing a
change may be needed, Dallas tested out a lot of different
formations and player combinations; they'll have to go back to the
drawing board considering Detroit scored its most points in 63
games, since the 2003 opener.

"We are definitely going in backwards from the way we wanted
to," said Romo, who was 23-of-32 for 321 yards with two
touchdowns. "We may not scare anyone right now. We win a game or
two and that will change."

Detroit's Jon Kitna was 28-of-42 for 306 yards and four
touchdowns with one interception. He set the club record for
completions in a season and joined Scott Mitchell as the only Lions
quarterbacks to throw for 4,000 yards in a season.

Roy Williams caught the first two TDs, a great one that
withstood replay and another with 2 seconds left in the first half.
Mike Williams caught a 21-yarder that put Detroit ahead for good
and Mike Furrey punctuated his TD by firing the football into a
plastic Cowboys logo behind the end zone, knocking it off the wall
and putting a crack in it.

"I didn't think the star would come down," he said. "I didn't
want to do that. But all the guys enjoyed it."

Detroit has played better than its record indicates all season,
getting blown out only twice. Just last week, they had a chance to
beat NFC-leading Chicago but botched the final play.

This time, Detroit made the final play, stuffing Romo's
fourth-down scramble. He also was stopped on a first-down run and
forced to throw incompletions on second and third downs.

"It's important for us to go into the offseason like this,"
defensive tackle Cory Redding said. "The way we finished, it
doesn't get any better than that."

Dallas led by one several times, including Newman atoning for
his mistakes with the team's first punt return for a touchdown
since 2001 and Owens catching a 56-yard pass for a 31-30 advantage
with 8:09 left.

That play capped a 99-yard drive that was highlighted by Romo
losing the ball in his own end zone, picking it up and throwing to
Owens for 17 yards. It was the kind of good luck that was Romo's
hallmark when he won five of his first six starts, and it seemed
like the kind of play that could've turned things around for the
Cowboys.

But the Lions answered with Mike Williams' TD and Romo fumbled
on his very next snap. That led to Jason Hanson's fourth field goal
of the game and an eight-point Detroit lead with 2:58 to go.

When Romo was stopped shy of the goal line, the loudest cheer
came from Philadelphia because it meant the Eagles clinched the
division title.

"We talked about playing with emotion," said Newman, who last
week accused teammates of doing more talking than playing. "I
don't think it was there."

Game notes
The Cowboys finished with more road wins (five) than home
wins (four) for the first time since 1989, when they were 1-7 and
0-8. ... Roy Williams caught six passes for 104 yards for Detroit
and Furrey had 11 for 102. Furrey caught 98 passes this season, the
most ever by a non-rookie following a season when he had no
catches. ... DeMarcus Ware had three sacks, giving him 11½ for the
season, the most ever by a Dallas linebacker and the most for
anyone since Tony Tolbert had 12 in 1996. ... Owens caught six
passes for 117 yards and Terry Glenn had six for 109. Both hit
milestones: T.O. got his 800th career catch and T.G. went over
1,000 yards for a second straight season. ... Lions right tackle
Jonathan Scott was strapped to a board and taken off via motorized
cart during the fourth quarter. The team said it was a hip injury.