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Monday, September 14, 1998

Cowboys lose to Broncos

By Lynn Zinser

Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT)

DENVER - Twice Terrell Davis ran through the Dallas defense as if it wasn't there, each time picking a single hole, making a single cut and slicing upfield with nothing but grass and descending yard lines ahead.

The runs came only moments apart in the first quarter of Denver's 42-23 demolition of the Cowboys Sunday at Mile High Stadium. As Davis pulled away toward the end zone, arms churning, head high, he seemed to leave more than Dallas players grasping at air in his wake. The entire NFL seemed far behind.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski. "I kept looking up and thinking, 'I can't believe it. Are they ever going to stop our offense?' "

Davis's two mammoth touchdowns - 63 and 59 yards, both run untouched by a Dallas defender - punctuated Denver's five-possession, five-touchdown first half. The Broncos finished with 515 yards, which included a significant second-half slowdown. This was not only a favor to the overmatched Cowboys, but also to the poor horse who does a lap of the field after every touchdown. He looked more winded than Davis. "I don't think I've ever seen a team have five series and five touchdowns in any game," said Denver coach Mike Shanahan. "Not just this team, any team."

The offensive explosion left people grasping for appropriate adjectives, and had Broncos quarterback John Elway not left the game grabbing his right hamstring and Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman not left grabbing his left shoulder, it would have been the only thing anyone talked about in both cities all week.

But Dallas has way more to worry about than getting blown out to fall to 1-1. Aikman's injury turned out to be a broken collarbone and he'll miss four to six weeks. Elway's injury, he said, isn't likely to cost him a game. "I've always been a fast healer," Elway said.

As giddy as Denver is about the events of Sunday, Dallas is just as crushed. The Cowboys are trying to bounce back from last year's 6-10 disaster and wanted to believe last week's romp over Arizona meant they were back. Their defensive showing Sunday, coupled with the loss of Aikman, said otherwise.

"I hate to use the word devastating," said Dallas coach Chan Gailey. "But it hurts. He's an all-time great player."

Aikman was hurt diving for an extra yard while scrambling for a first down in the second quarter. He didn't slide feet-first and Denver defensive end Neil Smith fell on top of him. It wasn't a particularly hard hit, but Aikman's decision to stay in bounds had cost him.

"That's the difference between John and Troy," said Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe. "Troy went to UCLA. John went to Stanford. John knows when to get down. He knows you have to be able to get back to the huddle."

Sharpe could afford a few laughs at Dallas's expense. He scored twice, on passes of 38 and 23 yards from Elway, and generally had as much fun against the Cowboys' pass defense as Davis had against their run defense. In fact, every time the Broncos lined up for a crucial play, they seemed to find Dallas in the wrong defense. The Cowboys, who had a nickel defense on the field for Davis's big runs, were stacking the line for Sharpe's big catches.

"In the chess match, our coaches outdid theirs, big-time," Sharpe said. "New England, they made a concerted effort to stop Terrell. Dallas kind of got caught in the middle of the stream. They were watching Terrell, but they had to keep an eye on John, too. Every time they looked one way, we went the other."

Dallas had a different explanation.

"Denver has the best offense I've seen and I think we've seen in six or seven years," Cowboys cornerback Kevin Smith said.

The Cowboys' offense had some success of its own, even after Jason Garrett replaced Aikman. Emmitt Smith ran for 93 yards on 20 carries. The Cowboys managed a respectable 370 yards.

This, however, tends to pale when your defense gives up 515.

Denver answered a few questions that lingered after their tougher-than-expected Monday night win over New England. The defending Super Bowl champs didn't look so super. The line looked wobbly. Their longest run came from Elway.

Against Dallas, the line looked like it was clearing paths for construction equipment. Davis finished with 191 yards. Elway was barely touched - even on the play when he pulled his hamstring - and passed for 268 yards.

Even with Elway's numbers, the biggest blows came from Davis. His touchdowns, only one minute, 22 seconds apart in the first quarter, turned a 7-7 game into a blowout.

"I don't even know what happened," Davis said. "I just bounced outside and ran straight ahead. The second one was a toss play and the guys did a good job of blocking the back side. It's a play we run a lot."

It doesn't usually go for 59 yards, however.

"All I could think of was, 'Score, score,' and hoping nobody was fast enough to catch me," Davis said. "I guess nobody was."

No, the Dallas secondary was in position only to spectate, even the legendarily speedy Deion Sanders.

"Just to be on the same field with him was incredible," Sanders said of Davis. "He is a wonderful player."

The bad news for the rest of the NFL is that Davis, the Super Bowl MVP, plays with a future Hall of Fame quarterback and a bunch of other guys who can turn five straight possessions into five straight touchdowns.

"That first half," Sharpe said, "was as good as it gets."

(c) 1998, Philadelphia Daily News.

Visit Philadelphia Online, the World Wide Web site of the Philadelphia Daily News, at http://www.phillynews.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


All content copyright 1998, AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News and Reporter OnLine
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