American football: Rice out on his own with 1,000th catch

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The Independent Online
Jerry Rice, the most prolific receiver in the history of the NFL, became the first player in history to make 1,000 receptions as the San Francisco 49ers beat the New Orleans Saints 24-17 on Sunday night.

But Rice, one of the most modest players in the league, was in no rush to celebrate his achievement. He was more concerned about his team's performance, which he described as "not 49er football".

He said: "One thousand is not the most important thing. The most important thing for this team is to win football games. We have a standard here and right now we're not living up to it."

Rice started the game having made 997 catches. He had one catch for no gain in the first quarter and made a 36-yard touchdown catch in the second period. He reached the milestone early in the fourth quarter, when he caught a nine-yard pass from Steve Young.

Rice needs only four more points to become San Francisco's record scorer. He already holds a host of records in the NFL, including receiving yards (15,864), receiving touchdowns (151) and total touchdowns (162).

The 49ers' lead in the NFC West increased when their only real rivals for the divisional title, the Carolina Panthers, were unexpectedly beaten 20-17 in Atlanta - the Falcons' first win of the season.

But the greatest upset of the day came at Texas stadium, where Troy Aikman threw two interceptions as the Dallas Cowboys lost 31-21 to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Aikman's first mistake enabled the Eagles to take a 24-21 lead. But the quarterback looked set to retrieve the situation when Dallas were first and goal late in the fourth quarter.

The Philadelphia defense withstood two runs by Emmitt Smith and on third down Aikman was intercepted in the end zone by James Willis. The linebacker returned the ball to the 10-yard line, where he threw a lateral to Troy Vincent, who ran the length of the field for a touchdown.

"We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory," Barry Switzer, the Cowboys head coach said: "I don't think there was anyone that didn't think we would win the game with 40 seconds left and the ball at the three-yard line."

In Buffalo, the Bills ended the seven-game winning streak of the Washington Redskins, 38-13, to leave Philadelphia and Washington level at the top of the NFC East with 7-2 records. Philadelphia have a slight advantage at the moment by virtue of their defeat of Washington in the first week of the season and an easy run-in.

Dallas are now 5-4 and Aikman's mistakes could prove costly. They have a tough schedule to come (at San Francisco on Sunday and home to Green Bay the next week), and face an uphill battle to make the play-offs.