DETROIT - Given the media hype surrounding Jon Kitna's now-infamous January radio interview, Sunday's game between the Cowboys and Lions easily could have been billed as "Kitna vs. Bradie James and Terence Newman" - the two players most irritated by Kitna's derogatory remarks about the Dallas defense on a Seattle radio station.
Never has a pre-game coin flip drawn so much attention.
James, the Cowboys' defensive captain, didn't shake Kitna's hand at midfield before kickoff. Newman, who received a cautionary letter from the NFL regarding his inflammatory comments toward Kitna this week on Sirius Radio, shared a hug with the Lions quarterback as he just so happened to be an honorary captain for this game.
The Cowboys players said the issue was settled after the Cowboys' 28-27 victory.
"That's not good for the game," said James, who approached Kitna after the game to talk about his past remarks, which included a jab at James' defensive awareness in last December's loss to Detroit. "It ended up building up the game this week, no doubt. But I think he's a good character guy and he apologized.
"My thing was, being a quarterback you don't single out one player, two players, three players, four players. Some things are better said in the locker room than in the media."
Newman wasn't as serious when asked the details of his conversation with Kitna.
"We exchanged cookie recipes," he deadpanned.
"It was kind of funny to me how much it got blown out (of proportion). I'm kind of famous, I guess, because it was in every newspaper and on every TV station."
Division Title Drought Ends For Two Vets
Greg Ellis didn't want anyone to notice, but he couldn't help it. His emotions overcame him.
The veteran linebacker admitted he teared up after the Cowboys pulled off a dramatic 28-27 victory over Detroit to clinch their first NFC East title since 1998.
"Nobody else saw it. I had to walk off real quick," said the 10th-year veteran. "When you go through a lot of things in life and you come out on the side that you want to be on, it's a good time."
As the Cowboys donned division title T-shirts and caps in the Ford Field visitor's locker room, the postgame celebration might have meant more to Ellis and left tackle Flozell Adams, the team's elder statesmen and the only players left from that 1998 team. Both were rookies and are the only two guys to have experience the entire division title drought lasting eight seasons.
"It was a goal of ours to be able to clinch the division," Adams said. "But what I'm impressed about today was to be able to come (back) from such a deficit. The third quarter showed we probably didn't have a chance, but on the sideline we were like, 'We need to get this going.' I don't care what the deficit is, we're going to keep playing."
The Cowboys erased a 27-14 deficit by outscoring Detroit 14-0 in the fourth quarter, with Jason Witten's 16-yard touchdown catch icing the game with 18 seconds left.
Somewhat fittingly, Ellis sacked Lions quarterback Jon Kitna on the game's final play to increase his season total to a team-high 11½ in only 10 games. He missed the first three weeks of the season while still rehabbing from last year's torn Achilles' injury.
Maybe that's why Sunday's win was extra special. Ellis could only watch the Cowboys' playoff run last year, and wondered at times whether he'd return from such a career-threatening injury.
"I was getting teary-eyed," he said after the game, "but it's not time to cry yet because we've got some more games to play."
Henry, Newman Finally Start Together
Cowboys cornerback Anthony Henry started alongside Terence Newman for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 4, but wasn't pleased with his full workload. This was the first time the Cowboys' top two corners had started in the same game this season.
"I've definitely got to play better," said Henry, who initially missed three games with the bum ankle. "It was my first real start coming back off the injury, and I felt like there were some plays out there I should've made that put us in a different situation."
Detroit targeted Henry early in the game, seemingly testing his mobility. Henry worked strictly in nickel and dime packages the past five games but said he didn't feel physically limited against Detroit.
Just a little breathless at times.
"I had to get my second wind," he smiled. "I got winded a little bit."
Henry's return moved Jacques Reeves back into nickel situations against the Lions. Reeves had started the first 12 games in place of either Henry (ankle) or Newman (foot/knee).
Kosier's Game-Saving Recovery
Sunday's most overlooked play might have been left guard Kyle Kosier recovering Tony Romo's fumble in the middle of the Cowboys' game-winning drive.
The 294-pound Kosier dived onto the ball at the Dallas 40-yard line, setting up fourth-and-6 with the Cowboys trailing 28-21. Romo hit Marion Barber for a first down, then found Jason Witten five plays later for the game-winning score.
"He did a great job," center Andre Gurode said of Kosier's save. "That's just something that offensive linemen are taught to do every week - cover downfield. Don't get up and try to run with it; just fall on it and wait for the other guys to get there and cover you up."
Crayton Banged Up
Cowboys wide receiver Patrick Crayton injured his foot in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win and will be reevaluated Monday.
Crayton, whose foot was heavily wrapped after the game, finished with three catches for 46 yards.
- Marc Colombo started at right tackle and finished Sunday's game despite the sprained left ankle which kept him out of practice for two days earlier in the week. While Colombo played the entire game, he didn't appear to be at 100 percent.
- One play that should not be forgotten is Terence's Newman tackle of rookie Calvin Johnson, holding him to a one-yard gain on the quic- out on second-and-10 at the Dallas 13 with the Lions still leading 27-21. A frustrated Johnson slammed the ball into the turf, earning himself a delay of game penalty and costing the Lions five yards. When Jon Kitna's ensuing pass was incomplete, that left Jason Hanson with a 35-yard field-goal attempt. He missed, barely pushing the kick wide right that would have been good from 30 before fading away.
- The Lions rushed for 63 yards on their game-opening touchdown possession. That was 40 more yards than they rushed for the previous Sunday in a 42-10 loss to Minnesota.
- Miles Austin returned three kickoffs for 112 total yards, including one for 60. After that, Detroit head coach Rod Marinelli had seen enough. From then on, he ordered the Lions to basically pooch kick, keeping the ball away from Austin but still giving the Cowboys good field position nevertheless.
- Marion Barber's 20-yard touchdown run matched the Cowboys' longest run from scrimmage since his 24-yarder on Oct. 21 against Minnesota.
- Trailing 27-13, Phillips had little choice but to roll the dice on the fourth-and-goal at the Lions one with 14:20 left in the game. The gutsy part of the play was offensive coordinator Jason Garrett sending out a three-receiver formation then calling an inside run up the gut to Barber, who scored untouched.
The Cowboys clinched their 20th division title and 16th NFC East championship with the win . . . Head coach Wade Phillips is now just the second coach in the Super Bowl era to start a season 12-1. The other was Denver's Red Miller in 1977 . . . Dallas earned its sixth road win of the year, tying for second-most in team history and matching the most since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule . . . Sunday's win is the ninth consecutive on the road, dating back to the end of the 2006 season. It's the second-longest streak in club history . . . The Cowboys again scored at least 24 points, extending the club-record streak to 13 games this season . . . Greg Ellis' sack on the final play gives him 11½, tying DeMarcus Ware's single-season record for linebackers . . . Tony Romo set a club record by throwing a touchdown in 17 consecutive games . . . Miles Austin's 60-yard kickoff return in the first quarter is a career-best for the regular season . . . Marion Barber's three-touchdown game was the first by a Dallas running back since Julius Jones' three on Dec. 2004 against Seattle.