IRVING, TEXAS — IRVING, Texas -- Nate Newton apologized to the nation, and Jimmy Johnson felt compelled to say his team needs to get better. Yet, in the most important way, no Dallas Cowboys team has ever been better.
After a 30-3 victory over the New York Giants yesterday in which the Dallas performance ranged from soporific to super, the Cowboys stand at 10-2 with four games to go. And none of the great teams from Dallas' past ever was better than 10-2 after 12 games.
"It's nice to jump out to a 10-2 record," said quarterback Troy Aikman, who threw for 143 yards and two touchdowns. "But we're not going to get complacent because, No. 1, this team wants to win the [NFC] East. And we realize we have the opportunity to go for home-field advantage [in the NFC playoffs], and we'll keep working for that."
The Cowboys temporarily own the NFL's best record with the 9-2 San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills playing Sunday. So Johnson gave his players three days off, thankful they didn't take all of Thanksgiving off after a slow start.
"I want to apologize to America if you all were sleeping in the first half," said Newton, "because we were a little sloppy."
Playing against a club that remains a giant only in name, Dallas clung to a 9-3 lead after two quarters, courtesy of Lin Elliott's three field goals.
The Giants, forced to pin their hopes on third-string rookie Kent Graham at quarterback, were surviving because Dallas was wasting opportunities.
In the first half, Dallas had field position at its 20, the Giants' 48, the Giants' 22 and the Giants' 41. Out of that, the Cowboys got three field goals. They didn't score on the possession that started at the 22 since Johnson chose to go for it on a fourth-and-one at the 3, and the Giants stopped Emmitt Smith on a run to the wide side of the field.
But they failed to stop Smith all day. After managing just 15 yards on his first five receptions, Smith took a swing pass to the left side in the third quarter and negotiated a beautiful run between Reyna Thompson and Mark Collins for a 26-yard touchdown and a 16-3 lead.
On the next Dallas possession, Smith saw one of his biggest holes of the season created by John Gesek, Erik Williams and Alfredo Roberts and burst through for a 68-yard touchdown run that sealed the fate of the Giants (5-7).
Dallas added another touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Aikman to Alvin Harper, and the league's No. 1 defense contributed four sacks while limiting the Giants to 207 yards.
"We hung in there, and I thought we picked it up after halftime," Johnson said. "This gives us six division wins and 10 overall, which is good, but we need to get sharper."