J.J. Arrington (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
The Arizona Cardinals made a statement to the rest of the NFC, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 30-24 in overtime. After blowing a late 10-point lead, the Cardinals ended the game on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. Brad Wilbricht breaks down one of the biggest wins in recent team history and wraps up the action from University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Cardinals’ special teams were truly that against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, starting the game and ending overtime in dramatic fashion. RB J.J. Arrington returned the opening kickoff 93 yards, giving Arizona a 7-0 lead. On the Cowboys’ opening possession of overtime, Sean Morey blocked Matt McBriar’s punt attempt. LB Monty Beisel scooped up the ball and ran into the end zone, giving the Cardinals a spectacular 30-24 win.
Arizona improved its record to 4-2 and now has a two-game lead in the NFC West standings. While a late collapse on defense nearly cost them the victory, the Cardinals redeemed themselves in overtime to secure the win. Chike Okeafor forced a fumble on the first play of extra time, backing the Cowboys offense into a hole.
Prior to overtime, Dallas RB Marion Barber took a short pass from QB Tony Romo and scampered 70 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Cardinals' lead to 24-21. The Cowboys' defense then forced an Arizona punt and got the ball back with 50 seconds remaining in regulation. Later on the drive, Romo connected with TE Jason Witten on a 30-yard gain down to the Cardinals' 40-yard line. A five-yard offside’s penalty moved the ball to the 35-yard line, where kicker Nick Folk drilled a 52-yard field goal as time expired
Despite being outgained in total yardage 374-276, the Cardinals made several key plays on both sides of the ball. QB Kurt Warner finished the day 22-of-30 for 236 yards and one touchdown. Although he tossed one interception and lost a fumble in the first half, Warner was able to protect the ball for the remainder of the game.
Filling in for the injured Anquan Boldin, WR Steve Breaston had another outstanding game. Breaston led the Cardinals in receiving, hauling in eight passes for 102 yards, scoring his first career receiving touchdown in the process. While the Cowboys’ defense held WR Larry Fitzgerald to only one catch in the first half, he came alive in second half action and finished with five receptions for 79 yards and one score.
WR Steve Breaston
Rookie RB Tim Hightower continues to become more involved in the offense. While Hightower ran for only 20 yards on seven carries, he converted on several crucial third downs. Hightower also caught four passes out of the backfield for a total of 29 yards. Veteran RB Edgerrin James led the team in rushing, finishing with 29 yards on 9 carries.
On defense, the Cardinals' aggressive blitzing schemes gave the Cowboys difficulty all game long. Arizona forced four Dallas fumbles while recovering two. The Cardinals’ defense was relentless in pursuit of Romo, finishing with three sacks on the afternoon. Okeafor, Bertrand Berry and Darnell Dockett all had one sack each.
Despite constant pressure, Romo completed 24-of-39 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns. Witten and WR Terrell Owens were limited to only four catches each and both failed to score a touchdown. Arizona’s defense kept the Cowboys’ running game in check throughout the game and held Barber to only 45 yards on 17 carries. However, Barber caught a team-high 11 passes for 128 yards including a late touchdown.
Now on a two-game winning streak, Arizona has taken a stranglehold on the NFC West. With their competition struggling, the Cardinals are in excellent position to win their first division title since 1975. Arizona has a bye this week before heading back east to battle the Carolina Panthers in Week 8.
Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at email@example.com