American Football: Aikman leads Cowboy's charge

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The Independent Online
THE eagerly awaited play-off confrontation between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles turned into a one-way procession in Irving, Texas, yesterday with the Cowboys winning every bit as easily as the 34-10 scoreline suggests.

The Cowboys travel to San Francisco next weekend to take on the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. The 49ers beat Washington 20-13 in their play-off game on Saturday, while Buffalo won 24- 3 in Pittsburgh to secure a third consecutive AFC Championship game. They will play Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship game next week. Miami beat San Diego 31-0 in the fourth play-off game of the weekend yesterday.

Emmitt Smith, the Dallas running back, rushed for 114 yards and scored a touchdown, as the Cowboys outplayed their divisional rivals from Philadelphia. Troy Aikman, the Dallas quarterback, recovered from an uncertain start to throw a touchdown pass apiece to tight ends Derek Tennell and Jay Novacek, and the Cowboys were ahead 17-3 at half-time.

The third quarter settled the game, with the Cowboys utterly dominant. Randall Cunningham, the Eagles quarterback, looked increasingly uncertain when passing the ball, while the Eagles found rushing almost impossible against the Cowboys No 1 ranked defense. Smith's touchdown, and another from Derek Gainer, gave the Cowboys an unshakeable lead.

The 49er game was almost perfect for those of their fans for whom victory is not the same without Joe Montana. The 49ers won, but Steve Young, who has supplanted Montana this season, nearly gave it all away. Young fumbled three times in the second half and was intercepted once as the 49ers watched the Redskins threaten their 17-3 half-time lead.

However, a muffed exchange between Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien and Brian Mitchell handed the ball back to the 49ers and they held on to win. Young had played a part in the 49ers' early superiority, throwing touchdown passes to John Taylor and Brent Jones.

New England have sacked their head coach, Dick MacPherson.

NFL Play-offs, Saturday: Pittsburgh 3 Buffalo 24 (AFC); San Francisco 20 Washington 13 (NFC). Yesterday: Dallas 34 Philadelphia 10 (NFC); Miami 31 San Diego 0 (AFC).

(Photograph omitted)