Smith's hard fall gives Dallas a scare during win over Cards

The Associated Press

IRVING, Texas Nothing shakes the soul of the Dallas Cowboys like an injury to Emmitt Smith, who is taking dead aim on Eric Dickerson's NFL season rushing record.

The Cowboys have proved they can win without Troy Aikman but not Smith. Two years ago, the Cowboys lost both games that Smith missed during a contract dispute.

Smith has led the Cowboys to their first unbeaten September in 12 years, but an elbow injury had him sweating in the locker room after a 34-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

''Emmitt's our touchdown man,'' said wide receiver Michael Irvin. ''We have to have him leading us.''

Smith scored two touchdowns, rushed for a 116 yards and had 53 yards receiving.

Smith fell hard on his left elbow late in the game and said, ''I lost the feeling in my fingers. For a while there, I couldn't move them. I was scared because I must have hit a nerve or something but I think I'll be back running fine. Everything will be OK.''

Smith was to be examined again today after the swelling goes down. He is leading the NFL in rushing with 543 yards. Dickerson set the NFL rushing record with 2,277 yards in one season.

''I think I'm more focused and more determined than I've ever been,'' Smith said. ''The offensive line is on a huge role. ''

Smith was hampered with hamstring problems last year and two seasons ago had shoulder injuries.

Dallas (4-0) hasn't started out this well since 1983, when the Cowboys started 7-0.

Arizona (1-3), which had yielded an NFL-worst 196 yards per game rushing, watched Smith beat them on the ground and through the air.

''It's just a pleasure to watch Emmitt, whether he's running or receiving,'' said fullback Daryl Johnston, who clears a path for Smith with his crunching blocks. ''It's great to start 4-0 but we still have things to work on. We haven't played great Cowboys football in two weeks.''

Quarterback Troy Aikman said he's having fun just feeding the ball to Smith.

''Emmitt played just a sensational game,'' Aikman said. ''He really ran hard.''

Smith went over 100 yards for the fourth consecutive game. He scored a touchdown for the 11th consecutive game to tie Lenny Moore of the old Baltimore Colts for the third longest streak in NFL history.

Smith scored on runs of 6 and 1-yard in the first half but made his most spectacular moves on a 40-yard reception from Aikman for the third Dallas touchdown, breaking six tackles.

Dave Krieg threw two touchdown passes. He hit Larry Centers with a 13-yard touchdown pass in the first half and found Rob Moore with a 25-yarder against a prevent defense with 46 seconds left.

Cardinals coach Buddy Ryan said his team had trouble tackling the elusive Smith.

''It's hard to win when you don't tackle well,'' said Ryan. ''Emmitt, Aikman and Irvin hurt us bad. Those three guys are great players. Everybody knows that. ''

Irvin said the Cowboys feel an unbeaten season is possible.

''Nothing is unrealistic,'' Irvin said. ''We're keeping our dream alive.''

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