The New England Patriots are looking for a running game. The Dallas Cowboys are searching for consistency. And Mexican fans are hoping for at least a glimpse of real NFL action Monday night.
Promoters say they expect more than 100,000 fans at Azteca Stadium, where a 1994 exhibition game between the Cowboys and Houston Oilers attracted an NFL-record crowd of 112,000."This is an impressive place," Cowboys coach Chan Gailey said as the teams arrived for a light workout before a few hundred fans.
"There's been a few years that if you added them all together I wouldn't have played in front of that many people."
Both New England and Dallas are looking for their first preseason victories after two disappointing tries.
"We want to win if we can and we want a chance to solidify and give some consistency on both sides of the ball," said Gailey, a first-year coach trying to install a new offense.
He said his starters were likely to play only about a quarter, and star running back Emmitt Smith might sit out because of a bruised thigh. Defensive tackle Leon Lett and cornerback Deion Sanders also will be missing.
New England coach Pete Carroll said Sedrick Shaw will start at tailback for the Patriots, who have failed to find a replacement for Curtis Martin, the star running back who signed with the New York Jets.
Shaw carried 16 times for 48 yards in a 14-13 loss to San Francisco, but he also fumbled on the Patriots' first possession.
His main competitor, rookie Robert Edwards, was injured in the San Francisco game and is not ready to return. Nobody stood out in the Patriot's second game, a 28-0 loss to Minnesota.
"We have not been clicking as well as we'd like to," Carroll said. "We think we're ready to break out in the next couple of weeks. Maybe it will be tomorrow night."
Players criticized the Azteca field after the 1994 game, but NFL turf consultant George Toma said, "it's improved 100 percent."
The field was in pretty good shape Sunday despite more than 2 inches of rain since Thursday. Forecasts called for rain Monday night.
"It it is wet and sloppy it will be a good situation because you do need to work on that kind of a situation, but it is hard to work on a precision-timing type o game when it's raining," said Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, adjusting to a more timing-oriented passing scheme.
The biggest cheers of fan day went to Marco Martos, a Mexico native who has a brief contract with the Cowboys after playing with the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe.