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PRO FOOTBALL SPOTLIGHT

ART IMITATES LIFE, BUT COWBOYS IMITATE DYNASTY

Yes, it’s true that most of the group-think NFL cognoscenti have already eagerly awarded the Cowboys this year’s Super Bowl; and yes, owner Jerry Jones and the rest of the vivacious Cowboy crew have been described in hallowed terms usually reserved for royalty--or glitzy revolutionaries.

So, what better way to salute all that love and understanding this weekend than with an eye-catching Nike commercial, featuring Deion Sanders, Barry Switzer and Jones with the theme from “Dallas” pumping in the background?

Jones, of course, is in the midst of a legal war with the NFL for, among other reasons, cutting his own gazillion-dollar endorsement deal with Nike.

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But, just a hunch, maybe the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the 49ers was not the most fortuitous time to debut the audacious new Cowboys-Nike-Deion (is that the correct order of merit?) commercial.

“Give me 11 players like that,” Jones says in the commercial, “and I can rule the world.”

Problem was, at the time of the commercial’s airing, the Cowboys were kicking away their most important game of the year to a 49er team that lost to Carolina a week earlier.

The commercial was aired with Dallas trailing, 17-0, and just seconds before the spot, Troy Aikman was taken off the field, limping on a bad knee.

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Jerry, maybe you need 12 players like that now.

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In the much-anticipated second edition of the Deion-Nike-Cowboys series, Michael Irvin was brought into the party for a commercial that appeared during the third quarter, co-starring, of course, with Deion.

At the time, Dallas trailed, 31-13, well on its way to its third consecutive loss to the Steve Young-less, Nike commercial-less 49ers.

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FINDING A COMMON GROUND

How did Leigh Steinberg, the agent who represents both Young and Aikman, remain unbiased in his seat selection at Texas Stadium during the game?

Easy, he sat in a private box next to former President George Bush, who is not the person you would most associate with the free-thinking Steinberg, an avowed believer in liberal causes.

But, presumably to be politically correct, Steinberg was sitting to Bush’s left .

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ROOKIE ON A RUSH

The hottest running back in the NFL isn’t Emmitt Smith, it isn’t Marshall Faulk, and it sure isn’t Natrone Means.

Including his 142-yard, two-touchdown outing Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, rookie Patriot tailback Curtis Martin has gained 524 yards, and scored seven times, in his last four games, raising his season total to 812 yards and nine touchdowns.

After this weekend’s action, Martin (who now has 812 yards) is behind only Seattle’s Chris Warren among AFC rushing leaders, and is fourth in the NFL. Martin is second only to Smith’s 14 touchdowns.

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His big game was the first 100-yard rushing effort against Miami this season.

“Early in the week, I said he wasn’t in the same class as Marshall Faulk,” Miami defensive end Jeff Cross said. “Ask me about him now.”

GOODBY, HOUSTON?

Well, that makes it 0-2 for lame duck NFL home teams this season.

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With Oiler owner Bud Adams poised to sign an agreement to move the team to Nashville, Tenn., the Oilers lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, 32-25, at Houston.

Last week, the Oilers pasted Cleveland days after news broke that the Browns were about to announce a move to Baltimore.

This time, as opposed to the bitter reaction in Cleveland, there were few indications of unrest among the Astrodome crowd of 32,998. A lone sign hanging from an upper deck in the Astrodome pleaded “Stay Here, Houston.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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TOP PERFORMANCES

PASSING

*--*

Player, Team Att. Cmp. Yds. TD WARREN MOON, Vikings 43 24 342 4 BRETT FAVRE, Packers 33 25 336 5 DAN MARINO, Dolphins 37 27 333 2 ERIK KRAMER, Bears 38 23 318 2 ELVIS GRBAC, 49ers 30 20 305 2 JEFF GEORGE, Falcons 34 17 279 0 JIM KELLY, Bills 36 22 272 2 RODNEY PEETE, Eagles 37 25 264 2 SCOTT MITCHELL, Lions 34 21 260 1 JIM EVERETT, Saints 37 27 228 2

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*--*

RECEIVING

*--*

Player, Team Rec. Yds. TD JERRY RICE, 49ers 5 161 1 CRIS CARTER, Vikings 12 157 2 WILLIE GREEN, Panthers 6 157 1 ROBERT BROOKS, Packers 6 138 2 CURTIS CONWAY, Bears 6 126 2 BRETT PERRIMAN, Lions 10 125 0 VINCENT BRISBY, Patriots 6 118 1 JOEY GALLOWAY, Seahawks 5 114 2

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RUSHING

*--*

Player, Team Car. Yds. TD ERRICT RHETT, Buccaneers 25 144 0 CURTIS MARTIN, Patriots 30 142 2 CHRIS WARREN, Seahawks 27 121 1 GARRISON HEARST, Cardinals 18 103 0 EMMITT SMITH, Cowboys 18 100 1

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--Compiled by Bob Cuomo and Tim Kawakami


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