IRVING, Tex. — Emmitt Smith did not have to run far on any of his three touchdowns Sunday against the Phoenix Cardinals.
But as usual, Smith's touchdowns went a long way toward helping Dallas defeat their NFC East division rival.
Smith, who gained 62 yards in 22 carries, scored twice on three-yard runs and again on a one-yard run in a 27-7 victory that gave the Cowboys a season sweep of the Cardinals.
The Cowboys (6-3), who defeated Phoenix, 17-9, in Tempe, Ariz., are off to their best start since the 1986 team opened with the same mark.
The Cowboys' victory marked the first time since 1985-1986 that Dallas has won three consecutive games against NFC opponents. The last time the Cowboys won three division games was 1987.
Smith has nine touchdowns in his last three games against the Cardinals.
"It's hard to explain my success against Phoenix," Smith said. "I guess anybody could have done it since they were from short distances."
Robert Williams keyed the Cowboys on defense with a blocked punt and an interception that led to scores.
Dallas Coach Jimmy Johnson gave Williams a game ball for his performance.
"Normally, we wait until Monday to pass those out but I thought he ought to have his right now," Johnson said.
Smith said Johnson yelled at the team during halftime when the Cowboys held a 10-7 lead.
"He sounded like he was real fired up," Smith said. "He told us we weren't responding so we got with it in the second half."
Williams blocked a punt by Rich Camarillo on the Phoenix 38 in the third quarter. Six plays later Smith scored on a dive from the one.
"I just took off and the Cardinals got mixed up in their assignments," Williams said. "I was right there to block the punt and nobody touched me."
Johnson said it one of the bigger plays of the game.
"It gave us the boost we needed," Johnson said. "Now we're 6-3 and we have a rough schedule coming up with three straight road games (at Houston, New York Giants and Washington). We're pleased to be where we are."
Williams struck again late in the third quarter, blunting a Cardinal drive by intercepting a pass by Tom Tupa at the Dallas 29. The Cowboys drove 61 yards to build the margin to 20-7 on a 27-yard field goal by Ken Willis.
Smith scored again with 3:07 left from the three after the Cowboys drove 68 yards against a tiring Cardinal defense.
"We had our opportunities but bad things, ugly things happened in critical situations," Cardinal Coach Joe Bugel said. "We played hard enough and we hung in there but it's one of those games that's hard to explain."
Bugel added: "I'll tell you this, that it's no fluke Dallas is 6-3. They have a good team."
The Cowboys started quickly as Alexander Wright returned the opening kickoff 71 yards. Aeneas Williams saved the touchdown by tackling Wright at the Phoenix 24, and the Cowboys eventually settled for Willis' 36-yard field goal.
The Cowboys drove 80 yards in six plays to make it 10-0 on Smith's three-yard scoring run after a 37-yard completion from Troy Aikman to Alvin Harper.
The Cardinals (4-6) drove 84 yards behind the hard running of Johnny Johnson to cut the deficit to 10-7. Johnson, who had 39 yards on the drive, scored from a yard out.
Johnson gained 89 yards in 19 carries for the Cardinals.
Tupa completed 15 of 43 passes for 130 yards with two interceptions.
Aikman completed 17 of 23 passed for 191 yards but he was sacked four times and had two passes intercepted.
The victory was a costly one for the Cowboys. Running back Ricky Blake, who gained 42 yards in nine carries, sustained a fractured hip on the last play of the game.
The Cowboys will try to determine today how long Blake will be out and whether he will return this season.
Sunday's attendance of 61,190 was the 12th consecutive regular-season crowd of 60,000 or more, a Texas Stadium record.