Dallas come back to haunt Johnson

AMERICAN FOOTBALL: Jerry Jones had the last laugh in the big grudge match. Matt Tench reports from Miami

It went unrecorded amid the deluge of pre-game information whether Jimmy Johnson's preparation for the visit of the Dallas Cowboys included reading Frankenstein, but it seems unlikely. It might have helped though, giving the Miami Dolphins head coach a fair idea of what was to come. Don't mess with the monster you created, as Mary Shelley nearly put it.

The last time Johnson encountered the Cowboys offense in a coaching capacity he was directing them to devastating effect against Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVIII. On Sunday night the two were reacquainted, and it will be of no consolation whatsoever to Johnson as he reflects on a heavy defeat to conclude that his new team simply could not contain the brilliant playmakers he developed at his old.

After a close, if slightly misleading first half, the Cowboys won 29- 10, a scoreline that did scant justice to their superiority, but which was more than enough to keep Jerry Jones happy. The Cowboys' owner had, with Johnson, been the focus in the build-up, because it was the first time the two had confronted one another professionally since Johnson's departure from Dallas two and a half years ago.

That separation, the subject of more analysis than a royal divorce, was really about who got the credit for the creation of the Cowboys' outstanding team (it is mischievously said of Barry Switzer, Johnson's successor, that his great coaching asset is being unfazed by Jones's high-profile presence). The problem for Johnson was that the outstanding team remained in Dallas, and his new, young outfit was simply no match for them.

In particular, they were unable to stifle Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman. Irvin has had a troubled year. He was widely vilified after a scandalous trial for cocaine possession, America never lacking in sanctimony when it comes to judging its sporting heroes. Irvin was also suspended for five games by the NFL, an absence that partly explains his team's poor start to the season.

He was here for this game, though, returning to the city where he made his name as a college player and, despite being booed every time he touched the ball, demonstrating why he remains one of the best wide receivers in the league. Aggressive, sure-handed and quick, his 12 passes, including one for a touchdown, amassed 186 yards. On this form, you felt, he would be a match for any secondary, let alone Miami's second-rate version. Their performance was typified by a catch the Dallas receiver made, 30 yards down the field without an opponent within lassoing distance.

If Irvin excelled, Aikman was even better. In his prime as a quarterback, he exuded confidence as he completed pass after pass, admittedly aided by the Dolphins' anaemic pass rush. By the end he had thrown for three touchdowns and 363 yards, with a completion rate of more than 80 per cent. "Troy played the best since I came to Dallas," Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys running back, said definitively.

Aikman, it must be reported, may be the first matchwinner to benefit from a lack of divine intervention. Before the game, in a moment of pure Florida vaudeville, a local churchman led a distinctly one-sided prayer gathering as he invoked higher power to secure a Dolphins victory and keep Dan Marino healthy.

Such sectarianism failed to move the Almighty, but it provoked a response in Nate Newton, the Cowboys' 23-stone guard, whose job it is to protect Aikman. "When that preacher only prayed for Dan Marino, and not for Troy or anybody else on our team, that fired our team up," Newton said. "He's supposed to be a Christian, and he only prayed for one side of the field? That just ain't right. That was a self-serving preacher."

As for Johnson, he left the field a subdued figure. "We got beat by a better team today," he said. At half-time, with Miami ahead 10-9, it was just possible to envisage an upset as his team prevented the visitors from penetrating the end zone, while Marino threw a couple of superb passes on the game's first touchdown drive. But the Cowboys always looked more assured, and in the second half they forced the turnovers and completed the passes just as they had done in Jimmy's day. What had been billed as "The Commotion On The Ocean" became the humiliation before the nation.

The result leaves the Dolphins in fourth place in the AFC East with vital games against New England and Indianapolis in the next fortnight. Lose those and Johnson's first season will almost certainly be judged a failure. The Cowboys, too, face a testing few weeks with Philadelphia, San Francisco and Green Bay next on their schedule.

For Jerry Jones, however, you feel the most important victory of the regular season has already been secured and, as he strolled around the Cowboys' locker room in the fierce heat of a Florida evening, there were unmistakable signs of vindication. He did his best not to look smug, but it was an unequal struggle. Nor could he resist a final dig about that controversy: "I really do hope our fans will see that there's no one person who can just absolutely create magic," he said. "The point is - and always will be - that there's no such thing as being indispensable."

Unless, perhaps, you're Troy Aikman.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)