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Cowboys Shoot Down Cards

Nine months after being embarrassed and exposed by the Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys returned the favor Sunday.

Raghib Ismail's 63-yard touchdown catch helped Dallas take a big early lead, and Greg Ellis snuffed Arizona's comeback hopes with a 98-yard fumble return for another touchdown in a 35-7 victory.

The Cowboys (3-0) continued to prove they're not as old or as bad as the Cardinals (1-3) made them look in a 20-7 playoff loss at Texas Stadium in January.

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Game Summary

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  • "I don't know what it does for us, but I think it will change a lot of other people's minds about who is the best team in this division," said Dallas safety George Teague, who began the rout by intercepting Jake Plummer's first pass and returning it 32 yards for a touchdown.

    The Cowboys got big plays and constant pressure from their defense and just enough offense to continue their best start since 1995. Dallas also kept pace with St. Louis as the only undefeated teams in the NFC while rebuilding its winning streak over Arizona to 17 out of 19.

    "It sure feels a lot better than it did last time," Cowboys coach Chan Gailey said.

    That victory inflated Arizona's hopes and made people believe the Cardinals were the new team to beat in the NFC East.

    But they haven't sustained it this season, instead freefalling back to mediocrity by repeating the same scenario: slow starts and too many turnovers.

    It happened again Sunday as Arizona fell behind 21-0 for the second time this season and committed five turnovers after having four in each of the first three games.

    "I don't know where the team is right now," defensive lineman Simeon Rice said. "We're trying to be positive, but it's so easy to be negative."

    Another continuing theme was a bad game by quarterback Jake Plummer.

    Plummer threw three more interceptions, upping his league-worst total to 12. He also lost a snap in the fourth quarter, leading to Ellis' weaving touchdown run on the longest fumble return in Cowboys history.

    "My first instinct was to fall on the ball," said Ellis, who had an 87-yard interception return for a touchdown in the previous game. "Then I got up and saw it was a long way to run. Somebody said "pitch it back." I guess they figured I wasn't going to make it."

    The only positive for Arizona was ending a streak of first-half shutouts. But the Cardinals didn't get on the board until there were 11 seconds left in the second quarter.

    "It's hard to come back every week," Plummer said. "You feel pressure to try making something happen."

    Cowboys owner Jerry Jones felt the same pressure following the January blowout. So he spent the offseason targeting the weaknesses the Cardinals exploited, beginning with improvement on both lines.

    The results were very evident Sunday. Troy Aikman had all the time he needed and Plummer never got in a rhythm.

    By holding off the Cardinals' pass rush, Aikman was able to exploit single coverages. He did so on an 18-yard touchdown pass to Michael Irvin and a 67-yard bomb to Ismail.

    The Cowboys' key drive was their first of the second half, when they went 73 yards in 7:01 to take a 28-7 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Emmitt Smith.

    "It was real important for us to get something going there," Aikman said.

    The Dallas defense made it hold up, thanks in part to the return of Deion Sanders.

    Plummer refused to test the All-Pro cornerback's wounded left big toe, ignoring his side of the field. Plummer never even looked that way on the few downs Sanders was on the sidelines.

    "Did you think they would?" Sanders said. "I tried to tell you Jake might get a snack or an appetizer against me, but he won't get a four-course meal."

    Sanders, who said he was looking forward to unveiling his "Holy Ghost dance," had several opportunities on punts, but never broke free. He tried creating room when there wasn't any and lost yardage several times.


  • By going 16-for-33 with three interceptions, Plummer is sure to remain the worst-rated starting quarterback in the NFL.
  • Smith's touchdown was his 24th against Arizona, his most against any team. After 75 meetings, Dallas leads the series 50-24-1.
  • Cardinals receiver Frank Sanders, who was leading the NFC with 19 catches, had only two receptions for 42 yards.
  • The Cowboys are 9-2 after their bye week in the 1990s. They've won eight in a row and all six at home.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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