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The Setup
Cards had won a squeaker over Philly. The Cowboys were coming off a close loss to the Washington Native Americans. Cards were 6 & 1. 'Pokes 5 & 2. This game would be a road game for the Card in a hype-filled NFL city (welcome to "Jerry's World") but they had a one-day practice-edge over the Cowboys (who were coming off a MNF loss). Card players figured to get more media hype (& distractions) this week. Dallas players figured to get a bit less. Hot story this week coming out of Dallas centered on the condition of Tony Romo's back. Competitively, this game figured to be an"audience-grabber", but we originally expected it to take a back seat to Denver vs. New England - (scheduled for the late Sunday afternoon time-slot). Instead, the League Elders wisely scheduled Cards @ Dallas for early Sunday, which
gave us center-stage in the NYC viewing area (since the Giants had a MNF game and nobody's watching the Jets anyway).

The Lede
Boolya! America's Team Ambushed by Arizona.

Other ledes too embarrasing to consider - "Cards Lasso Cowboys"..."Cards Trump 'Pokes"..."Cards Deck Dallas"..."Cardinals Shuffle Cowboys"..."Cards Corral Cow Pokes"..."Arizona Round Up in Dallas

The Bottom Line:
Cards started off flat (maybe it was the 11am AZT start-time) and fell behind 10 - 0 by the end of the first quarter, but - aided by a handful of big plays by the defense and special teams - bounced back to win convincingly over what the national-media described as "The Romo-less Cowboys." In doing so, the Cards limited ace Dallas RB DeMarco Murray to under 100 rushing yards for the first time this season, while Murray's Cardinal counterpart Andre Ellington compiled 95 rushing yards and 39 receiving yards to help nail down the win.

Game Recap
Things got off to a rocky start when Palmer threw a 58 yard "pick 6" to to a DB named (who?) Patmon and the Card offense remained a bit shaky until the second quarter. The Cards righted the ship during the rest of the first half, finally putting its first points on the board early in the 2nd quarter, posting a second TD later in the quarter and then blocking a short Cowboy field goal right befor halftime to maintain their 14 - 10 lead. Neither team scored in the 3rd quarter, but a couple of interceptions and an equal number of short-yardage defensive stands led to two more Cardinal TD's and a 28 - 17 win.

1st Quarter
  • Cards received. TB on the KO. Palmer mixed short passes to Ellington and Carlson and an 11-yard run by Ellington to move the Cardinals out to the Dallas 46 before getting sacked for minus-7 by Melton. On the next play, he tried to hit Floyd short but his pass was picked off by Patmon who returned it for a 58-yard score. (Is this going to be "one of those days?") Dallas 7 - Cards 0.

  • TB on the KO. Cards picked up a 1st down on an 11-yard pass to Floyd, but punted from their own 37 four plays later. Butler's punt was fair caught at the Dallas 17. They ran Murray 4 of the first 5 plays before Weeden hit Dunbar on a screen pass for 40-yards to move the ball to the Cardinal 30. Card defense stiffened and Cowboys had to settle for a 52-yard Bailey FG. Dallas 10 - Cards 0.

    TB on the KO. moved to the Philly 14 in 10 plays to end the quarter.

    Palmer moved the Cards in 8 plays to the Cowboy 22 as the quarter ended. Key play thus far on the drive was a completion on one of those patented inside slant routes by Fitz for 31-yards.

    1st Quarter Score: Dallas 10 - Cards 0.

2nd Quarter
  • Ball on the Dallas 22. A 9-yard completion to Fitz helped move the ball to the Cowboy 7 where Palmer hit Carlson for 7-yards and a TD. (We're back in it). Dallas 10 - Cards 7.

  • KO was returned to theDallas 22. Card defense held Dallas to 3 & out. Ginn returned Jones' punt 18 yards to the Cardinal 43, but the Cards couldn't take advantage of the good field position and went 3 & out. Butler punted from mid-field. Fair caught at the Dallas 17. A holding penalty on Clutts helped us hold Dallas to a 3 & out. Jones' punt went out of bounds at the Cardinal 37. A short pass to Floyd on 3rd & 10 picked up a 1st down just short of mid-field. On the next play, Ellington circled right-end for a 20-yard gain that put the ball on the Dallas 11. Three plays later, Palmer hit Jaron Brown on a slant over the middle for an 11-yard TD. (We're ahead for the first time)! Cardinals 14 - Dallas 10.

    4:34 till half-time (This time-period in most games has been a Cardinals "witching season.").TB on the KO. It took 8 plays and 4:31 for Weeden to march his offense all the way to the Cardinal 17, where his chip-shot field goal attempted was blocked by Justin Bethel. (How about that, sports fans!!!). In fact, the block almost turned into 7 Cardinal points when Patrick Peterson picked up the loose ball and would have taken it to the house had it not been a saving-tackle during the return by TE Jason Whitten. Last play of the half.

First Half Score: Cardinals 14 - Cowboys 10.

3rd Quarter
  • We were hanging onto a razor-thin lead with Dallas receiving the 2H kickoff. TB on the KO. Our defense rose to the occasion and held Dallas to 3 & out. Punt went out of bounds at the Cardinal 40. Good field position, but we went backward (aided and abetted by a holding penalty on Carlson) and punted from our own 37. Punt was returned 37 yards by Harris. Dallas ball on their own 46. Weeden moved them down to our 18-yard line, but Weeden's short-left pass for Whitten was picked off by the Honey Badger. Card ball on our own 19. A chop-block by Sendlein negated a first down on a 12-yard run by Ellington to stall the Cardinal drive. Butler punted from the Dallas 49. It was fair caught at the Dallas 16. Dallas moved to their own 35 as the quarter ended with the Cardinals valiantly hanging onto a 4-point lead.

Third Quarter Score: Cardinals 14 - Dallas 10.

4th Quarter
  • Three plays later, Weeden's scramble to pick up a one-yard 1st down was halted in its tracks by Stinson. Garrett decided to punt from his own 44. Punt was out of bounds at the Cardinal 19. Melton's sack of Palmer forced us to punt on the 5th play of the Cardinal possession. Harris returned the punt 16 yards to the Cardinal 43. (We are playing with fire). But the Cardinal defense stiffened and forced a 4 & out when Murray was stoned by Bucannon and failed to pick up one yard on a 4th & 1. Time on the clock: 9:36. Palmer and the Cardinal offense - bouyed by the gritty play of the Cardinal defense, took over control of the game, mounting a 9-play drive capped by a one-yard TD pass to Ellington. Other key plays: A 27-yard "tippy-toe" ballet reception at the right sideline by Ted Ginn, a 17-yard run around right end by Ellington. A slant to Fitz for +10. (Note - the emergence of a potent running attack in the red zone helps set up those slants to Fitz even though he might fall just short of the goal line). Cardinals 21 - Dallas 10.

  • 6;00 left. Harris returned the KO to the Dallas 25. Two plays later, Weeden's pass for T Williams was picked off by Cromartie and returned 7 yards to the Dallas 28. Time keft: 5:25. On the second play of the series, Palmer hit Hughes for 18-yards to put the ball on the Dallas 6. Three straight handoffs to Grice resulted in a one-yard TD run by the recently signed Cardinal rookie. Cardinals 28 - Dallas 10.

  • 4:20 on the clock. Harris returned the KO to the Cowboy 13. At this point in the game - with no Dallas time-outs left - the only remaining burning issue was whether we could shut out Dez Bryant to zero catches and no TD's. Unfortunately, we could achieve neither (Bryant caught a 3-yard TD pass with 1:13 left, but who cares! We were well on our way to winning. Cards 28 - Dallas 17.

  • Onside kick fell into the good hands of Fitz. Two knees. Game over.

Final Score: Cardinals 28 - Cowboys 17.

Game Stats.

  • Passing Efficiency: Palmer went 22 for 34 for 249 yards and 3 TD's. He threw one interception (only his 5th of the year). (Weeden threw 33 times, completing 18 for 1 TD and gave up 2 interceptions).

  • Run Game: Ellington gained 95 yards on 21 carries. (Cards held Murray to 79 yards on 19 carries - the first time this season, the Dallas RB was held under 100 yards).).

  • Receiving: Fitz led Card receivers with 5 catches for 70 yards. Ellington and Floyd were next with 4 grabs. Ellington and Jaron Brown each had one TD catch. J
  • Defense: Dallas racked up 266 net yards (92 on the ground and 174 thru the air).

  • Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: Runs: 29/Passes: 34.

  • Sacks: Palmer was sacked once. Cards sacked Weeden once.

  • Leading Cardinal Tacklers: D Williams 7, Foote 5, R Johnson 5, Mathieu 5, Bucannon 4, Campbell 4.

  • Field Goals: Nothing attempted/nothing made by Catanzaro.

  • Turnover Ratio: +1. (Neither team recovered a fumble. Cards picked off two passes (Mathieu an Cromartie). Dallas (Patmon) intercepted one.

  • Penalties: Cards were penalized 6 times. Cowboys were flagged 5.

  • 3rd Down Efficiency: Cards converted 60% (9 for 15). Cowboys converted 27.3% (3 of 11). (Another way to look at it is that our defense prevented Dallas from converting third downs 72.7% of the time.

  • Time of Possession: Us - 31:28/Them: 28:32

Bright Spots

  • It was a win on the road.

    True Grit - Big plays when we needed them; including a blocked FG, two interceptions and two one-yard "stops" by the run defense.

  • Ellington was just 5 yards away from 100 on the ground. He also caught 4 passes for 39 crucial yards.

  • Hughes is becoming Mr. Reliable both in short yardage and as a receiver.

  • Palmer refused to get rattled farther after his early Pick-6 miscue.

  • Mathieu had one pick and was up there in tackles - suggesting that he's close to putting last year's injury behind him.

  • Cromartie continues to make the kind of plays we'd expect from Peterson.

    The run defense held Murray to under 100 for the first time this season.

  • Stinson is doing more and more things that attract notice each week.

  • 7 wins, baby!

    Once again one more game won; one less game to lose. One game closer to 11 wins; one game less close to 6 losses.

The Dark Side

  • Team looked a bit flat in first quarter (Time difference have anything to do with this)?

  • Palmer's interception shouldn't have been thrown.

  • Although Carson only got sacked twice, he was banged around pretty good by the Dallas pass rush several other times.

  • Carlson - despite the TD grab - needs to be more consistent at a position that demands a higher catches-per-target avg.

  • John Brown had an off-day/dropped a couple.

  • It's tough to ever question Bruce Arians' play-selection, but we did seem to fall into a rut at times (i.e. Run on 1st; Pass on 2nd: Whatever it takes on 3rd).

Last Word:
We played a rival said to have the #1 RB in pro football, a TE named Whitten, an underrated defense and a backup QB with a couple of years of game experience. Cardinal players were also faced with the high amount of media hype and distraction that accompanies a winning record as well as this year's trip to "Jerry's World"). Would they be able to "live in the film room", "keep their head in the playbook and utilize every available minute to prepare for their next opponent (who happens to be Dallas)?

As we started out, it looked as if we might not have met the challenge - we looked a bit flat, gave up a pick-six and fell behind 10 -zip by the end of the 1st quarter. But we then settled down, tightened things up and rode the backs of a bundle of big plays to pick up Win #7 against America's Team. We held their RB to under 100. Whitten caught 6 passes, but he didn't murder us like other TE's have done. We kept Weeden from doing serious damage (especially in the long game). We survived the Dallas media "zoo,"

Words of caution - (1) We got away with our slow start yesterday, but, in doing so, we were "playing with fire." Starts like this will eventually come back to bite us. (2) The media-hype is already beginning to get out of hand, with media some pundits overreacting to our success and anointing us "Best Team in the NFL."

We've played half a season worth of football. Which means that there's a half-season still left to play (with all the typical ups and downs - especially as the weather gets colder and windier). So here 'tis: Next week we host Team #9 (who happens to be the team that sacked Kaepernick 8 times to upset the Niners yesterday). The week after, we host Team #10 (who just happens to have guys like Fairley and Suh to plug their defensive line and terrify opposing QBs). So throw away the newspapers, avoid the Tweets and watch Animal Planet, boys and girls. Watch tape. Hit the playbook. Stay healthy. Focus on the "W."

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Copyright 1996 Gollin & Associates. Last modified: 11/26/2012