Monday, December 28, 1998
Cowboys offense finally shows life
By ANDY NEWBERRY
Scripps Howard News Service
IRVING, Texas -- There were 11 strangers in Texas Stadium
Sunday night, and they played offense for the Cowboys in the
Where were the security guys when the Redskins needed them?
The impostors scored 17 points in one period. The blocked.
They ran. They caught passes. They scored touchdowns (note the
And they handed Dallas a 20-7 halfime lead which convinced
Chan Gailey to rest his studs in the second half of a 23-7 victory.
Are these the same guys who scored six points in seven quarters
against also-rans New Orleans and Kansas City? The same team
which struggled to beat Philadelphia at home? Or are these the
same guys who scored 30 points or more in three straight games
against Arizona, Seattle and Minnesota.
For the Cowboys to have any hope in the playoffs the Troy
Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Billy Davis and Eric Bjornson
who played the second period better show up Saturday afternoon
to take on the red-hot Arizona Cardinals.
If they do, the Cowboys can dream a scenario where they beat
the Cardinals, upset 14-2, but playoff sibling Atlanta and return
to Texas Stadium to play San Francisco or Green Bay.
It does seem like a far-fetched idea. But sweeping the NFC
East would have seemed ridiculous in July, and predicting a 17-point
quarter by this offense would have been totally crazy yesterday.
I'm still not ready to proclaim Dallas a contender, but Sunday's
execution level should make them a favorite against Arizona.
That right there is progress, something I hadn't seen since
before turkey season.
Dallas scored 33 points in three games between Thanksgiving
and Christmas, and certainly looked like it'd be the first NFC
playoff team to hit the showers.
That could still be the case, but the Cowboys showed up Sunday
night with a purpose and regained some of the form we saw in
an 8-3 start.
Dallas (10-6) became the first team to be a perfect 8-0 in
the NFC East with a 23-7 victory at Texas Stadium.
The Cowboys' second big Christmas package came in the form
of a 52-yard game-winning field goal by Arizona's Chris Jacke.
The Cardinals' 16-13 victory means Dallas will have a chance
to go 9-0 against the NFL's weakest division.
Since 1992, the Cowboys are 13-1 against Arizona.
That means a lot less to me than the positives I saw from
the Cowboys' offense Sunday night. Troy Aikman was sharp, receivers
caught passes and the special teams were special.
Dallas averaged 10 yards per play with its first-team offense
on the field against a team which had won six of its last eight
games. And both of those Redskin losses came to Arizona.
The second quarter is the best offensive quarter I can recall
this season. Three possessions, three scores and 17 points.
Washington scored on the final play of the first quarter to
take a 7-3 lead.
Then the Redskins got a look at something they probably couldn't
find on film. Namely a Cowboy offense in rhythm.
Aikman throws a rare bomb to Irvin for 51 yards which led
to a 1-yard touchdown run by Emmitt Smith. Smith broke the all-time
record for rushing TDs previously held by Marcus Allen.
The next time the Cowboys got the ball they were even better.
Billy Davis got open on an out route and a post pattern on back-to-back
plays -- probably a season first -- and Aikman found him for
gains of 19 and 24 yards.
Aikman came back with a post to Irvin, which drew an interference
call, and then Smith followed with a highlight-film 26-yard touchdown.
That's eight plays for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Forget
third-down conversions, Dallas only faced one the entire quarter.
But Aikman didn't stop there. Dallas put together a nice two-minute
drill that reached the Washington 5-yard line. The Cowboys settled
for a Richie Cunningham field goal, but the aggressiveness was
back in the attack and Dallas had a 20-7 halftime lead.
Aikman was 6 of 7 for 167 yards in the second quarter. That's
about 24 yards per attempt. Aikman (10 of 15 for 184 yards) threw
two perfect deep balls in the period including a 45-yarder to
Patrick Jeffers on a nice rollout.
And the run game was OK, too. Smith picked up 45 yards on
five tries. In all, the Cowboys gained 15.6 yards per play in
a 219-yard quarter.
Cowboys coach Chan Gailey rewarded the effort by giving Aikman,
Smith and Irvin the second half off. He had seen enough to think
he was ready to beat the Cardinals.
They certainly are capable of that small feat, but I'll need
more evidence like I saw in the second quarter Sunday night before
I feel comfortable calling this team a serious contender.
The consistency coach Chan craves is not there yet, but to
establish a trend you've got to start somewhere. His team showed
signs of life against the Redskins, which was a refreshing change
(Andy Newberry writes for the Wichita Falls (Texas) Times
All content copyright 1998,
AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News
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