The first play of the game was a big indicator of how this game was going to end when Arizona’s J. J. Arrington returned the opening kickoff 93-yards for a touchdown. Again, in overtime, it would be Dallas’ special teams play that would give the Cardinals the winning score on a blocked punt after they had tied the game at the end of regulation on a 52-yard Nick Folk field goal.
After a very sloppy first half by both offenses, Dallas just barely managed to tie the game at 7-7 before halftime on a 55-yard pass to Patrick Crayton from Tony Romo. Romo finished the game with decent numbers, but it was the early mistakes that would be insurmountable as he committed his eighth straight game with a turnover. Even with another 300-yard passing effort and three touchdowns, Romo’s team couldn’t quite make the plays at the end of the game in the face of a ferocious Cardinal’s pass rush.
Although there was a questionable non-call of a blatant blow to Romo’s head by Arizona’s defense that would have given the Cowboys an automatic first down instead of the fatal punt that resulted, Arizona was able to put enormous pressure on Romo all afternoon.
Don’t get me wrong, there were several strange plays and reviewed calls in this game that went Dallas’ way, but this one would prove the most costly. Another big play was in the third quarter after jumping out to a 14-7 lead, Dallas allowed Arizona to convert on a third-and-seventeen from their own 17-yard line. The drive ultimately led to touchdown for the Cardinals who then ran-off 17 unanswered points to gain a 24-14 lead with only 3:12 left in the game.
Dallas and Romo answered back with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Marion Barber but with only two-minutes remaining, the game looked out of reach, especially after a taunting penalty against Leonard Davis forced the Cowboys to kick from their own 15. Dallas would hold Arizona to a three-and-out on the strength of a DeMarcus Ware sack, but were still faced with a long field and no timeouts remaining. Romo made some good throws to get Dallas down to the Arizona 40-yard line on third-and-sixteen and were very fortunate when the Cardinals were called for offsides while Dallas lined up to spike the ball. This gave Folk and extra five yards for the kick that he would finally make after Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt called timeout just before his first try was blocked. Folk would make good with his next attempt when the kick just made it over the crossbar as time expired in regulation.
Dallas won the toss to start overtime, but was ineffective from their own 23-yard line, actually losing yardage on the third sack of Romo for the afternoon. This would lead to the fatal punt block by Arizona’s Sean Morey which was recovered and taken into the endzone by Monty Biesel, a back-up linebacker, for the winning touchdown.
Penalties, miscues and turnovers were once again costly to the Dallas offense with several players just not playing very well. Even Jason Witten had two penalties called against him and dropped a couple of passes. The offensive line didn’t play very well as C Andre Gurode cost the team a penalty and timeout simply because he didn’t snap the ball when called upon by Romo. The end total was 12 penalties for 93-yards with four dropped passes. But the most apparent flaw in this Dallas team is special teams. The kick return and coverage teams had been playing better in the past two games, but giving up two scores today certainly highlights the need to shore-up this aspect of the team.
Dallas definitely missed having Felix Jones available in the second half as he sat out with a strained hamstring. He was effective on several plays using his speed to get outside the tough Arizona run defense. Barber finished the day with just 45-yards on 17 carries but had 128-yards receiving with the long touchdown catch-and-run late in the game to get Dallas to within 24-21.