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Cowboys left to ponder what they must change

Chan Gailey's first season as Dallas Cowboys coach ended in a playoff disappointment that has shaken the organization to the bone.

After the Cowboys won the NFC East with a 10-6 record, nobody expected a collapse against Arizona. The Cowboys had beaten Arizona 16 of the past 17 times they played.

The 20-7 beating Saturday wasn't as close as the score indicated.

CB Deion Sanders said: "If we are going to call ourselves big-time players, then we have to make big plays."

Said QB Troy Aikman, who was sacked four times and intercepted three times: "We rely on different people now, and for a few of the people the door of opportunity is shut. We are looking through a different window now."

Owner Jerry Jones, however, said he was pleased with the first year under Gailey. "I'm excited about our coach and what he brought to the table with our players and quarterback. Next year should be an exciting one, and we'll study what went wrong and address our needs."

G Nate Newton, who many people thought might have played his last game, said he plans to return for a 14th season. Jones has to decide if he wants the 37-year-old Newton, who has had conditioning problems.

BILLS: Special-teams standout Mark Pike, 35, retired after 13 years, all with Buffalo. Pike, Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith were the only players left from Buffalo's four straight Super Bowls losses from 1990-93.

Pike, tearful at a news conference, said he was retiring to spend more time with his family.

The Bills still were fuming about the officiating in Saturday's 24-17 loss at Miami. Buffalo was penalized nine times for 93 yards. A possible late touchdown was taken away from Reed, and the Bills said two of their players were held after Eric Moulds caught a long pass on the Bills' first play and fumbled.

"I've never seen officiating this bad," Pro Bowl G Ruben Brown said.

Owner Ralph Wilson, through a spokesman, declined to comment. Wilson was fined $50,000 by the league for criticizing officials after a November loss in New England.

VIKINGS: Coach Dennis Green doesn't try to disguise his confidence. Asked what Minnesota would do if Arizona CB Aeneas Williams shut down Vikings WR Randy Moss the way he shut down the Cowboys' Michael Irvin, Green replied: "We've got a lot of weapons. Just guarding Randy Moss is not what you have to do to stop us."

_ TIMES WIRES

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