Dan Rather and CBS executives were heartened by the network's showing on the beginning of the Persian Gulf ground war Saturday night. CBS has been roundly criticized for a slow performance when the war initially broke out in January, but the news team was already on the air with a news special when the ground war started.

"Can you imagine what would have been written if we weren't on the air then?" Rather said to The New York Times in an interview from Saudi Arabia. " `CBS was late again.' Well, this time we were on the earliest and stayed the latest."Rather, whose executive producer was replaced two weeks ago, said he isn't immune to the pressure created by the criticism of CBS. "The name of the game is pressure," he said. "I can't say I don't think about that sometimes. On my better days I believe I can block that sort of thing out."