In a mostly empty Cowboys locker room last Friday, guard Nate Newton turned to running back Emmitt Smith and said candidly, "I can tell the difference in how you're running this year. Last year you were running on your heels because you just weren't sure [where to go]. It was my fault and the fault of the other guys on the line. Now I see you running on the balls of your feet. You've got confidence again." His 1,074 yards rushing last season was his lowest total since his rookie year, in 1990, and it looked as if the then 28-year-old Smith was past his prime. This season, new coach Chan Gailey has shown his confidence in Smith by calling more runs to the outside. On plays to the inside, Smith is more aggressive and is finding wide alleys to run through thanks to the dominant play of Newton and left tackle Larry Allen. On Sunday, in the Cowboys' 16-6 win over the Giants, Smith carried 29 times for 163 yards—his biggest rushing day since Oct. 29, 1995, when he had 167 yards against the Falcons—and passed Tony Dorsett to become Dallas's career rushing leader, with 12,105 yards. Now Smith, in his ninth season, needs 208 yards to pass Jim Brown, who quit after nine seasons, and move into fifth place on the alltime rushing list. Here's how Smith's 1998 totals stack up against his past top performances nine games into a season.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]