Switzer taking centre stage in Dallas drama

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The Independent Online

After the fortnight he's had, Barry Switzer was grateful just to win, but Sunday's defeat of the New York Giants will do little to calm the clamour in Dallas. True the Cowboys ended a two-game losing streak with a 21-20 victory, but it needed a Chris Boniol field goal as time ran out to do so, and the feeling grows that Switzer's side, overwhelming favourites to win the Super Bowl six weeks ago, remain in something approaching crisis.

To put some perspective on the scoreline it should be remembered that the Giants had been thrashed at home by the Cowboys on the opening day of the season, since when they have posted another eight defeats, a dismal return that has put their head coach Dan Reeves's job in severe jeopardy.

However the Cowboys have began to look vulnerable since the defeat by the San Francisco 49ers a month ago, with Switzer widely blamed for the losses. The Giants threatened a third in a row, and held the lead for most of the game thanks to the rushing of Rodney Hampton, who accumulated a career-high 187 yards against a defense that was once thought among the league's elite.

Emmitt Smith managed a touchdown, to tie the NFL record for a season at 24, but otherwise the Cowboys were kept out of the end zone, and it needed five Boniol field goals, the last from 35 yards, to secure victory.

It will do little to cool the heat on Switzer. Dallas fans grew accustomed in the Jimmy Johnson era to having one of the shrewdest coaches in the league. They are not so keen on a representative from the other end of the scale.

Talking of Johnson, his chances of starting next season as the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins increased significantly as the present incumbent, the Legendary Don Shula (as he is almost invariably described) watched his team lose to the Buffalo Bills. Thurman Thomas proved a familiar nemesis, rushing for 148 yards and notching a pair of TDs.

The game was level at 20-20 in the fourth quarter when David White picked off Dan Marino's pass to set up the winning field goal. "I wish I could give you a reason why we continue to lose games we should win, but I can't," Marino said. "I made a mistake on the interception. I wish I had the pass back."

Victory gave the Bills their sixth AFC East title in eight years, and though the Dolphins can still make the play-offs their chances of making substantial progress, given the number of away victories that would now involve, appear slim. For Shula only a Super Bowl appearance may save his job.

The Los Angeles Raiders are also seeing a promising season vanish before their eyes, the 44-10 defeat in Seattle was their fifth in a row, and their biggest defeat in nine years.

Cruising in the opposite direction are the Detroit Lions, whose 44-0 spanking of the Jacksonville Jaguars was their sixth win in a row. It is a measure of their more well-rounded attacking approach that Barry Sanders was only required to rush for 76 yards.