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IRVIN RETURNS BUT EMMITT STEALS THE SHOW FOR COWBOYS

IRVING, Texas -- Michael Irvin's return provided the Dallas offense with the expected lift. It was Emmitt Smith and the ground game that took advantage.

With Irvin attracting the attention of the Arizona defense, Smith ran for a season-high 112 yards on 21 carries and scored twice. Tony Tolbert added two sacks to lead the defense as the Cowboys beat the Cardinals, 17-3, on Sunday.

Irvin, who was suspended for the first five games after pleading no contest to cocaine possession, caught five passes for 51 yards and was cheered by the Texas Stadium crowd, although a few boos were sprinkled in. He had receptions of 12 and 9 yards late in the first half as Dallas took a 3-0 halftime lead.

"The Cardinals didn't give Mike a chance to make big plays, but he made some first-down conversions and that's why he was out there," said coach Barry Switzer of the Cowboys (3-3). "He's a great player and it's really good to see him back."

Irvin's return was the highlight of a methodical win for Dallas. He hugged quarterback Troy Aikman before he was introduced with the rest of the Dallas offense. Aikman threw to Irvin twice on the first possession, missing him both times.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about how I would be received by the crowd," Irvin said. "It was warm and I do appreciate that."

His presence provided room for Smith, who had been hampered by injuries, but looked like himself after a rest during a bye week. He scored on runs of 1 and 13 yards and now has 101 career rushing touchdowns, fifth on the NFL career list. The Cards are 2-4.

"We played like we had the No. 1 defense in the NFL," Dallas coach Barry Switzer said. "It dominated the entire day. The defense turned it up."

Steelers 20, Bengals 10

PITTSBURGH -- Chad Brown's 4 1/2 sacks led a defense that sacked Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake 10 times, and Rod Woodson went 42 yards for a score with a fumble return as host Pittsburgh (5-1) won its fifth straight game.

Brown, who moved to outside linebacker after Greg Lloyd tore up a knee in the Steelers' opener and is still learning the position, accounted for 27 yards in losses, four tackles, seven assists, one forced fumble, two pass defenses and an interception.

"I've never been able to put up those kind of numbers, but I've played better games. And I can play better," said Brown, who hadn't played outside linebacker since college, until this season.

The Steelers' 10 sacks tied a team record and were two short of the NFL record held by Dallas.

Jerome Bettis rushed for 109 yards, his fifth straight 100-yard game, and Mike Tomczak threw a 32-yard TD pass to Kordell Stewart that broke a 3-3 tie.

"When they're playing like that, it's scary," Bengals tackle Joe Walter said. "We knew what they were going to do, we knew they were going to blitz, but we still didn't do anything about it."

Colts 26, Ravens 21

INDIANAPOLIS -- A 1-yard touchdown run by Marshall Faulk and a 68-yard interception return for a TD by Jeff Herrod lifted Indianapolis (5-1) over Baltimore (2-4).

Indianapolis, taking a one-game lead over Buffalo and Miami in the AFC East, had to hold off the Ravens, who got three touchdown passes by Vinny Testaverde, two to Derrick Alexander and one to Calvin Williams.

The 3-yard TD catch by Williams brought Baltimore within 26-21 with four minutes to go, and the Ravens got the ball back twice more after Indianapolis punts. The final play, a pass to Jermaine Lewis, ended near midfield with a tackle by Ray McElroy.

Faulk scored from the 1 to put Indianapolis on top for good at 20-14 in the third quarter. On the next series, Testaverde hit Michael Jackson for 15 yards to the Indianapolis 43. But he was pressured by Tony Bennett on the next play and Herrod picked off the pass and ran it back for the longest interception return by a linebacker in Colts history.

Panthers 45, Rams 13

CHARLOTTE -- Carolina's point total was the highest in its two-year history as Kerry Collins threw three touchdown passes and Michael Bates ran back a kickoff for another score as the Panthers rolled over St. Louis.

Anthony Johnson rushed for a club-record 126 yards to help the Panthers (4-2) break a two-game skid and send St. Louis (1-5) to its fifth consecutive loss.

"We're not playing defense, we're not stopping the run, we're not covering the pass. We're not playing well and it's embarrassing," St. Louis coach Rich Brooks said. "I think we have to have an attitude check. As soon as bad things happen to this team, we give in."

It's the worst start by the Rams since they began the 1987 season by losing seven of eight.

Oilers 23, Falcons 13

ATLANTA -- Despite an injury that knocked out quarterback Chris Chandler in the first half, Houston (4-2) kept Atlanta winless with a stifling defensive effort.

Eddie George had 109 yards on 23 carries, the third 100-yard game of his rookie year for the Oilers. Houston, which is scheduled to move to Nashville in 1998, was cheered on by a small contingent of pompom-waving fans that made the four-hour drive from the Tennessee capital.

"No one likes to play on the road," said Oilers owner Bud Adams, who became a pariah in Houston when he decided to move his team. "But right now, our home advantage is not what it used to be."

Even with the extra fans, the game drew only 35,401 to the Georgia Dome to watch the Falcons (0-6).

Chandler, who was replaced by Steve McNair, is questionable for next week's AFC Central game against Pittsburgh at the Astrodome. Coach Jeff Fisher said it would likely be late in the week before he knows if his quarterback can play.

Saints 27, Bears 24

NEW ORLEANS -- Ray Zellars, suspended last week for arguing with coach Jim Mora, ran for 174 yards for the host Saints, who entered the game last in the NFL in rushing but beat Chicago.

Zellars, who was suspended for last Sunday's game against Jacksonville after he cursed Mora during practice, gained 156 yards in the second half after the coach gave his players a halftime tongue-lashing.

"This football team was driven by Jim Mora's rage," offensive coordinator Carl Smith said.

The Saints (2-5) won their second straight on Doug Brien's career-best 54-yard field goal with 1:44 left. Zellars had 39 yards on the drive that led to the kick.

The Bears (2-5) had a 17-7 lead at the half, turning two New Orleans' fumbles and a failed fourth-down try into points.

Eagles 19, Giants 10

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Gary Anderson's fourth field goal, a 29-yarder with 2:12 left, gave Philadelphia (4-2) its first lead of the game en route to a win over New York (2-4).

Then William Thomas picked up Dave Brown's fumble and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown to clinch the game.

The Eagles sacked Brown eight times and the Giants' only touchdown came on Amani Toomer's 65-yard punt return. The New York defense has now gone three games without allowing a TD.

Raiders 37, Lions 21

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jeff Hostetler threw four touchdown passes, including a 58-yarder to James Jett and a 62-yarder to Rickey Dudley as Oakland (3-4) put together back-to-back wins for the first time since last November.

Hostetler was 28 of 37 for 294 yards as Oakland ran off to a 34-0 lead before Detroit (4-3) got going.

Scott Mitchell was 31 of 50 for 342 yards, much of it during the third quarter, when Detroit scored all its points. The Lions now have lost 11 of their last 12 games in California.

"We came into this game knowing they have a potent offense and if we got behind, with the way Scott Mitchell throws and Barry Sanders runs, it would've been a long day for us," Raiders receiver Tim Brown said. "We knew we had to go out and play well early and that's what we did. Offensively, if we can play like this every week, we're going to be tough to beat."

Sanders was held to 36 yards on nine carries.

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