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Oilers gobble up Dallas turnovers, enjoy Cowboy-style feast

IRVING, Texas -- The Tennessee Oilers delivered what could be the fatalblow to the Dallas Cowboys' flawed season.

The Oilers (7-6) intercepted below-par Troy Aikman three times and returneda fumble for a touchdown Thursday to beat the five-time defending NFC Eastchampions 27-14. The loss dropped the Cowboys to 6-7 and put them in dangerof missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.

Darryll Lewis intercepted two passes and jarred the ball loose from EricBjornson so Marcus Robertson could return a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown.Robertson also intercepted a pass as Tennessee produced five turnovers againstthe mistake-prone Cowboys.

An unhappy and under-fire Dallas coach Barry Switzer called the gamean embarrassment.

You can't beat anybody if you have five turnovers, he said.I don't know if we can get into the playoffs now. I don't want tofigure that out right now. Does 9-6 get in there? I don't know. We have10 days (Carolina on Dec. 8) and we'll see if we can get our wounded well.

Switzer said the Cowboys won't just go through the motions.

Nobody quits on this team because it has been places no other teamhas ever been, three Super Bowls in the 1990s.

Aikman, who took a strong muscle relaxant to calm back spasms incurredduring warmups, was unusually wild and made poor decisions as Tennesseeintercepted two passes and cashed them into touchdowns in the first period.

Aikman, the second-least intercepted passer in the NFL, wasn't on thesidelines when the game started, but dashed onto the field after Dallasforced the Oilers to punt on their first possession.

I don't attribute that (the spasms) to the interceptions,Aikman said. In the locker room they did grab me good and locked meup. It's a real long shot for us to make the playoffs now.

Robertson picked off Aikman's wayward pass into double coverage intendedfor Stepfret Williams and returned the ball 48 yards before Aikman hustledover to knock him out of bounds at the Dallas 11.

That interception got the fire and the momentum going for us,Lewis said. We got rolling from there. We proved we're a defense capableof making big plays.

The Oilers scored on a fourth-down play when Steve McNair rolled outand hit center-guard Erik Norgard, who had reported in as a tight end, from2 yards out. It was Norgard's second career touchdown.

I didn't have time to think, I just reacted, Norgard said.I knew I would be open.

Again Aikman was off-target, and Lewis picked off a pass and returnedit 34 yards to the Dallas — as the crowd began to boo. McNair scored ona sneak for a 14-0 Tennessee lead.

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said the game-plan was to blitz Aikman intomistakes. The Oilers succeeded.

We got pressure on the quarterback, and everytime I looked up Isaw Troy getting off the ground, Fisher said. We had some bigplays on defense that really helped us. We talked about what we had to doand we went out and did it.

Aikman, whose second and fifth passes were intercepted, settled downand hit Michael Irvin with a 19-yard touchdown pass on an 81-yard drivein which the quarterback was 4-of-4 for 78 yards. He also hit Irvin witha 37-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

After Al Del Greco's 29-yard field goal made it 17-7, the Oilers struckwith another turnover. Bjornson caught 10-yard pass from Aikman but fumbled.Robertson picked up the ball and dashed 42 yards for the score.

Tennessee's only second-half score came on a 19-yard field goal by DelGreco.

We wanted to control the ball and establish the run, saidEddie George of the Oilers. Third-down plays were a big key.

Injuries also hounded the Cowboys. Cornerback Deion Sanders suffereda fractured right rib when he was tackled on a punt return in the secondperiod. Running back Emmitt Smith suffered a bruised shoulder in the thirdperiod and didn't return. Smith gained only 22 yards on 10 carries.

Robertson sprained an ankle in the second half and didn't return.

You'd like it to be a bad nightmare, but it's not, Dallaslinebacker Vinson Smith said about the Cowboys' first home loss of the year.

The Cowboys have three games left and trail the New York Giants (7-4-1)and Washington (6-5-1) in the NFC East. The team has been beset by injuries,rumors of coach Barry Switzer's firing and an offense that can't score touchdowns.

Typical of Dallas mistakes was a lost fumble by Sherman Williams on theTennessee 1-yard line with 4:11 to play. Williams was hit by Rayna Stewart,and James Roberson recovered to kill off all hopes of a Dallas comeback.

Tennessee beat all four NFC East teams it played this year, includingthe Giants, Washington and Arizona. The Oilers are 3-0 against Dallas onThanksgiving Day.

The Oilers trail Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, both 8-4, in the AFC Central.

We're still in the race, Fisher said. We need to keepwinning. Next up is Cincinnati. Nobody knows who we are, but we had a bigwin in front of the entire country. It gave us a chance to showcase ourplayers. Maybe more people know about our team now.

McNair hit 9 of 17 passes for 81 yards while George rushed 34 times for110 yards.

We had a lot of long drives and made a lot of third-down playsand that took time off the clock, McNair said. We knew it wasgoing to be a physical battle. And we got a big jump from our defense.

Aikman completed 27 of 42 passes for 356 yards.

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