Smith Confident About Cowboys

Friday, October 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys have the NFL's worst run defense and the lowest-rated quarterback. They've allowed 41 points in both home games, while scoring a total of 38. Their best player thus far has been the punter.

As bad as it sounds — and, at times, it has looked worse — the Cowboys (2-4) know that in today's NFL they're still not out of the playoff hunt.

But, if they don't clean up their act, they could be soon.

Emmitt Smith is leading the ``We can do it'' charge. He believes a glorious turnaround can begin Sunday against Arizona (2-4).

``One might say there's no way we're going to win the rest of our games, based on what you've seen, but one doesn't know what could actually happen in the next 10 weeks,'' he said.

``Who knows? We might establish something and it might trigger in somebody's head that this is the way we're going to go the rest of the year and we commit ourselves to doing certain things. Those certain things may be enough to get us back on track.

``But,'' Smith continued, ``at the same time, we know if we continue to play like we've played the last six weeks, there ain't no way in the world we're going to be in the playoffs.''

Smith said he's optimistic because his teammates are, too. He has yet to see anyone quit.

``This team gives great effort,'' said Smith, who has become a more vocal locker-room leader since Michael Irvin's departure. ``We just don't make enough plays.''

Randall Cunningham agrees with Smith and is convinced this team's work ethic will be rewarded.

``What we have to do is fix the problems internally — and it's not benching people,'' said Cunningham, whom many fans would like to replace Troy Aikman as Dallas' starting quarterback. ``I think we have to encourage guys and leave them in their spots and let them persevere.

``I want to say I can guarantee that we're going to turn this thing around, because I really believe we will. And it only really takes two games. If we can get two games under our belt, I think our whole enthusiasm will begin to change.''

The Cowboys haven't won consecutive games since starting last season 3-0. That's a stretch of 19 games, with No. 20 coming automatically on Sunday.

``I've been on teams where people have gone in the tank being 0-3 or 0-2,'' Cunningham said. ``I've been in situations where I've sat back there and got bashed up because guys lost their confidence. It has not happened here and I do not believe it will.''

Cunningham also was on the Vikings last season when they went from 2-4 to 10-6, made the playoffs and beat Dallas in the first round. They lost in the second round to St. Louis. Cunningham, however, was a bit player, losing his starting job after six games and rarely playing again.

The Cowboys have six games left at Texas Stadium, which should be an advantage, especially after going 7-1 there last season. Instead, they're 0-2 this season with their two worst performances coming at home.

But Dallas beat NFC East co-leader Washington on the road, and despite five interceptions by Troy Aikman still had a chance to beat the other co-leader, New York, on the final play last Sunday.

``If that's the elite, I like our chances going up against those guys, because we are not far away,'' linebacker Joe Bowden said. ``We've just got to continue to put it together and I think we will.''

Receiver James McKnight said the clicking must begin Sunday.

``We've got one foot in the grave and one on the banana peel,'' McKnight said. ``If we slip up anytime, we are going to bury ourselves.''