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The NFL
Peter King
September 18, 2000
Downturn In Dallas Injuries, old age and salary-cap woes have the Cowboys between a rock and a hard place
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September 18, 2000

The Nfl

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Neither does his team.

Buffalo's Smart Spending
Don't Mess With This Bill

Here's a perfect example of why the Bills have remained among the league's top teams, despite losing stars to free agency: In the off-season, executive vice president and general manager John Butler gave unheralded backup nosetackle Pat Williams a five-year, $12.5 million contract extension and waived All-Pro defensive end Bruce Smith. Bills fans howled at losing Smith, who fled to Washington, while the signing of the 6' 3", 312-pound Williams, a 1997 undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, hardly generated a murmur.

But after Williams keyed Buffalo's suffocation of Titans running back Eddie George (17 carries for 37 yards) by making six tackles and a sack in a 16-13 win on Sept. 3, it seemed the Bills had spent wisely. Williams, who would have been eligible to become a free agent after this season, also showed how effective he can be playing in tandem with starting nosetackle Ted Washington; the two were on the field together for 18 plays. Williams was so impressive that he received one of the highest grades ever passed out by defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. Seventy is considered a good grade, and Williams scored a 93.

He followed up on Sunday with a sack and a key third-down tackle for a six-yard loss in a 27-18 win over the Packers. "It's a great feeling," says the 27-year-old Williams. "The way I'm playing, I feel like I can't be blocked."

That may sound cocky, but his coach loves to hear it. "That's the way [the Bucs'] Warren Sapp and [the Vikings'] John Randle talk, and I like it—as long as you back it up," Cottrell says. "And Pat's backing it up."

Parity Escalates
New Century, Same Results

The Eagles' Duce Staley runs for 201 yards the first week of the season, 11 the next. The Broncos lose Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary to injury in a Week 1 loss and rush for 152 yards in a Week 2 win. San Diego shuts down Oakland's high-octane offense on the road in its opener, then gets whipped by toothless New Orleans at home. The Lions have yet to score an offensive touchdown. They're 2-0. If you thought the new season couldn't possibly be as unpredictable as last season, think again.

Eighteen of the first 30 games this year were decided by seven points or less. That's three more such games than the league had in the first two wacky weeks of last season. "I tell our players that every game is so close that three or four plays make the difference in almost every one," says Redskins offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

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