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Smith Gives Cowboys a Spark : Pro football: Aikman's passing, though, is more instrumental as Super Bowl champions beat Cardinals, 17-10, to avoid 0-3 start.

September 20, 1993|From Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Dallas Cowboys showed in their first two games that they couldn't win without Emmitt Smith. Against the Phoenix Cardinals, they showed they can win with Smith, their full-time sparkplug, in a part-time role.

With Derrick Lassic doing most of the running, Troy Aikman regularly finding Alvin Harper and Michael Irvin and the defense hungry, Dallas beat Phoenix, 17-10, on Sunday night.

"He played like he was going into the Super Bowl," Aikman said of Smith's electrifying entry into the game midway through the third quarter. "He gave us a jolt right there."

Aikman connected on his first nine passes, leading the Cowboys to 10 points on their first two possessions as Dallas won for the first time in three games.

The champion Cowboys lost to Washington and Buffalo while Smith was holding out, and they were desperate to avoid an 0-3 start. Only three teams, including Tampa Bay in the 1982 strike-shortened season, have lost their first three games and still made the playoffs.

"We wanted to wait until a time where we needed some spark," Coach Jimmy Johnson said. "Every time he touches the ball, he gives us one."

Smith, who had his single-game career high with 182 yards against Phoenix two years ago, stood on the sideline until the Cardinals pulled within 17-7 on Steve Beuerlein's 12-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with 6:21 to play in the third quarter.

Lassic, Smith's replacement, had run for scores of eight and two yards by then, before and after a 23-yard field goal by Eddie Murray. Lassic finished with 60 yards rushing.

"If my starting career is over, I'm going out on top," Lassic said. "I just felt much more comfortable this week knowing Emmitt was here and that everything wasn't on my shoulders."

Smith showed the value of his presence, gaining 23 yards in his first three carries during an abbreviated march that ended when Murray missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt. Smith wound up with 45 yards in eight carries.

"I wanted to stay patient," Smith said. "But once the kickoff came, I got antsy to get in there. I have to admit I was nervous. . . . I could feel the butterflies."

It was Aikman's passing that set the tone for the Cowboys throughout the game, however.

He completed 21 of 27 passes for 281 yards, with no interceptions.

"That was as good a performance as I've ever seen by a quarterback," Phoenix defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur said. "He just hit the receivers when he had to. I'm not discouraged by our defensive effort. We couldn't come up with a big play, and we still were within seven points of the Super Bowl champs."

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