© St. Petersburg Times, published January 6, 2002
Among a host of meaningless games being played today, the Cowboys-Lions game looks to be the most immaterial.
Yet, it might be the most momentous.
Not only is it the Lions' last game at the Silverdome before moving to Ford Field next season, but Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith is expected to make history.
With 56 rushing yards today, Smith will eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the 11th consecutive season, a feat never accomplished. It's ironic it might occur in Detroit, home of former All-Pro Barry Sanders, who is tied with Smith with 10 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
But the truly magnificent part of extending the streak to 11 seasons is Smith would have pulled it off despite having to scratch and claw for every yard while playing for a dreadful 5-10 team.
"If I, for some reason, am blessed to get it, then I'll probably be very excited about it," said Smith, adding he'll be back next season to chase Walter Payton's record for career rushing yards (he is 616 yards away). "I kind of knew it was going to be a challenging year in terms of being able to get some yards, but our team has been able to meet the challenge and been able to have some success on the ground for most of the year. Hopefully we can have some success in this final ballgame."
TRIVIA QUESTION: The Dolphins will be in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, the only team with that distinction. Two others have qualified for their third consecutive postseason. Name them.
A DUBIOUS DISTINCTION: The Panthers (1-14) and Lions (1-14) are trying to avoid making history. Neither would be the first team to go 1-15, but two teams have never gone 1-15 in the same season.
MILESTONES: Rams running back Marshall Faulk needs 79 total yards today to reach 2,000 combined yards on the season for the fourth straight time, which would be a league first.
Eric Dickerson is the only player to top 2,000 four times in a career.
ON SECOND THOUGHT. . .: Are the Ravens looking a little like boneheads for dumping quarterback Trent Dilfer for Elvis Grbac?
All Dilfer has done is lead the Ravens to last season's Super Bowl title and play well in limited duty for Seattle this season, going 51-for-84 for 766 yards, 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Grbac, on the other hand, is 255-for-440 for 2,873 yards, 15 touchdowns and a career-worst 18 interceptions in 13 starts when Baltimore went 7-6.
Just imagine if the Seahawks slip into the playoffs and the Ravens don't.
"We made the right decision and I still believe that," Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said.
Hey, whatever helps you sleep at night, Matt.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Panthers defensive tackle Brentson Buckner, responding to claims by Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis that Buckner's late hit on Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer last weekend was a cheap shot.
"I'm not disputing the penalty. It was a late hit. ... But for him to say I'm trying to hurt his players ... tell him to put on a helmet and get on the football field, I'll show him a cheap shot."
MAYDAY, MAYDAY: Want to know why the Saints have taken a nose dive these past three weeks and are out of the playoffs?
They've given up 40, 48 and 34 points to the Redskins, Bucs and Rams, respectively. That's a tad more than 40 points a game.
DID YOU KNOW?: San Francisco guard Ray Brown, 39, played 15 seasons before finally getting chosen for the Pro Bowl in his 16th.
When it was announced at a meeting Wednesday, the team gave him a standing ovation.
BEAR-ING DOWN: Say what you want about the Bears being lucky and kissed by fate. But you have to like any team's playoff chances when it is allowing a league-low 12.7 points a game and has only allowed one team to score on its opening drive in 15 games.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Plummer, who threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns in his two previous seasons, has gone three games in a row without a pick and has only one in his past five games. That would help explain why the Cards have won five of seven after going 2-6 to start the season.
TRIVIA ANSWER: The Rams and Bucs.
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.