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THE NFL / 1996

Defense Leads Bills to 10-7 Victory Over the Struggling Cowboys

September 23, 1996|From Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills didn't have Jim Kelly on Sunday, but their defense was so good they didn't need him.

With Kelly sidelined because of a hamstring injury, the Bills relied on a dominating defense to defeat the Dallas Cowboys, 10-7.

The Bills (3-1) held Emmitt Smith to 25 yard in 15 carries, intercepted Troy Aikman three times and limited the Cowboys (1-3) to 192 yards.

"The key to shutting down Emmitt was a sense of urgency on our defensive side," Bill defensive end Bruce Smith said. "We had to set the tempo from the first possession."

Smith had his worst game since Oct. 16, 1994, against Phoenix.

"It was a big-time outing by our defense," safety Henry Jones said. "With all the weapons Dallas has--with Emmitt and Aikman and Deion [Sanders]--we had to come up big and give our offense a chance."

Todd Collins, making only his second career start in place of Kelly, completed 10 of 17 passes for 88 yards and one touchdown before spraining his right ankle late in the third quarter with Buffalo leading, 10-0. Collins was replaced on the next series by Alex Van Pelt, who played the rest of the game.

"I don't think I did anything special," Collins said. "A lot of guys on this team had a feeling that something like this would happen. A lot of people were counting us out."

The Cowboys are off to their worst start since 1990, when Jimmy Johnson was the coach and Dallas was rebuilding. No team has ever started 1-3 and won the Super Bowl.

"It's like a bad dream," Emmitt Smith said. "I can't believe what is happening and the reason why it is happening. Whatever it is, we need to get it corrected quickly."

Collins, who struggled in his first start last season against Houston, led the Bills to a touchdown on their opening drive against Dallas. Thurman Thomas capped the drive with a two-yard run, giving the Bills their first score on a game-opening drive this season.

Buffalo took a 10-0 lead in the third quarter after Emanuel Martin made the first of his two interceptions. He picked off an Aikman pass and returned the ball 31 yards. Three plays later, Steve Christie kicked a 32-yard field goal.

Dallas didn't score until 5:53 left in the game. A 24-yard catch by Herschel Walker set up Smith's two-yard touchdown run.

Aikman completed 16 of 33 passes for 164 yards for the Cowboys.

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