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Denver Could Have Used Elway

A reassuring game for Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys couldn't have been more discouraging for Bubby Brister and the Denver Broncos.

Dallas' starters rebounded from three poor games by scoring on four of their first five drives, sending the Cowboys to a 22-12 victory over Denver Sunday night that ended a two-year, eight-game exhibition losing streak.

"We had a good outing," Aikman said. "That means more probably than the win itself."

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Game Summary

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  • Worse than the loss for the Broncos was how badly they played. In 2 1/2 quarters with its starters, Denver (2-2) failed to convert a third down until Brister's ninth drive then he threw an interception two downs later on what proved to be his final play.

    His other possessions ended in six punts, a safety caused by a shotgun snap going off his fingertips and a failed fourth-down try.

    Brister was 14-of-23 for 127 yards and wasn't even that sharp. Four of his misses were swatted and several more were well overthrown. His longest pass, a 37-yarder to Terrell Davis, started as a short toss.

    Backup Brian Griese threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Travis McGriff with 9:49 left to play and hit Byron Chamberlain for a 1-yard TD with 1:08 to go. Two 2-point tries failed.

    Despite it all, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Brister is still being counted on to replace John Elway as the quarterback of the two-time Super Bowl champs.

    "Once things start going poorly, it's hard not to start pressing, especially nder the scrutiny he's been under," Shanahan said. "You've got to be thick-skinned, you've got to take the heat. But I have a lot of confidence in Bubby. He's our first-team quarterback and Brian is No. 2."

    The way the teams played was a reversal of Denver's 42-23 victory last season. The Broncos dominated that game and broke Aikman's collarbone.

    "We made a tremendous move, but I don't think we got those guys' best effort," said Smith, who had 54 yards on seven carries. "For us, this was a blur of something we can possibly have, something we can build on."

    The Cowboys had seemed to be going in the other direction as their 0-3 preseason start had many of the same offensive doldrums as their 2-4 skid to end last season.

    But playing behind the five top offensive linemen for the first time, Dallas scored 10 points in each of the first two quarters, wrapping field goals by Richie Cunningham around touchdowns by Smith and rookie Wane McGarity. Each TD drive covered more than 60 yards in just three plays.

    "Troy had a lot of time to find people," said Cowboys coach Chan Gailey, who had never won a preseason game.

    Smith, who proved last year he has plenty left in his 30-year-old legs, showed a rare burst of speed on his 29-yard score. After punishing blocks by Larry Allen and Daryl Johnston opened a hole on a left-side sweep, Smith spun off safety Eric Brown and raced into the end zone.

    McGarity cruised to his touchdown with his right hand in the air and his index finger pointed into the stands after turning a short bullet from Aikman into an uncontested 41-yard score. He left veteran cornerback Ray Crockett on the ground with his hands on his head in disgust.

    McGarity was among nine receivers Aikman used as he went 12-of-20 for 207 yards. His only non-scoring drive came when a pass deflected by Eric Bjornson was intercepted by Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski.

    Aikman's second-longest pass was a 33-yarder on his first hookup with free agent signee Raghib Ismail, who missed the first three games with a shoulder injury. Ismail later reaggravated his shoulder problem.

    "He got it banged up a little bit, but he could've gone back in if we needed him," Gailey said.

    The Broncos made things hard on themselvein the first half by committing seven penalties for 80 yards. They even lost their challenge of a fourth-down run by Davis falling inches short.

    The Cowboys' only second-half points came on Brister's botched snap. Cunningham missed a 32-yard field goal try in the second half after making first-half kicks of 40 and 36 yards.

    The only bad news for the Cowboys was the sprained left knee of running back Tarik Smith. He sat out the second half after gaining 27 yards on six carries late in the second quarter.

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