GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Sunday’s game began and ended on special teams.
Sean Morey blocked a punt by Mat McBriar and Monty Beisel scooped it up and ran 3 yards for a touchdown as Arizona beat the Dallas Cowboys 30-24 in a wild overtime game at sold-out University of Phoenix Stadium.
The improbable finish mirrored the end of regulation when the Cowboys rallied from a 24-14 deficit to tie the game on Nick Folk’s 52-yard field goal as time expired. The field goal was setup by a 30-yard completion from Tony Romo to Jason Witten and aided by a 5-yard offside penalty on Travis LaBoy, who was injured and couldn’t get off the field before Romo spiked the ball with 4 seconds left.
The loss also closed a week of off-the-field controversy following an incident with cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones and his bodyguard at a downtown Dallas hotel.
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Blame the loss partly to the distractions from Jones’ fight with his body guard. The NFL will rule next week whether Jones, who was suspended last season for repeated violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, will be suspended or not.
But what can’t be overlooked now, as has been the case the past few weeks despite their 4-2 start, is that the Cowboys simply aren’t playing well.
They lost their second game in three weeks and are no longer looking like the team picked by many to make a Super Bowl run in 2008.
The offense remains out of sync and is not nearly as productive as it was earlier this season.
While still putting up solid numbers, Romo has become a mistake-prone version of his former self. He had three fumbles and lost one. One of the fumbles took the Cowboys out of field goal range in the fourth quarter. He also had a fumble on the first snap of overtime that put the Cowboys in a hole at their own 15 and eventually led to the game-winning blocked punt and recovery
And the defense continues to give up crucial plays in the secondary.
Quarterback Kurt Warner passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught five passes for 79 yards and one touchdown proved a tough cover all day for Cowboys cornerbacks Jones and Anthony Henry.
That the Cowboys were tied 7-7 at halftime was huge credit to the defense, which allowed the Cardinals just 75 yards and two first downs. Warner, the league’s leading passer, was seven for 11 for just 59 yards with one interception.
The Cardinals’ only points came on the opening kickoff when J.J. Arrington raced 93 yards to the end zone.
Despite the huge defensive effort, it was the Cardinals who seemed to be controlling the game because of what the Cowboys offense was unable to do for the first 25 minutes of the game. Romo was sacked twice, including a fumble. He avoided an interception when receiver Patrick Crayton recovered to knock the ball out of the hands of Cardinals defensive back Antrell Rolle.
But since almost doesn’t count you also have to throw out the sack and forced fumble on Romo that seemingly led to a Cardinals touchdown with 4:12 left in the second quarter. On second and 9 at the Cowboys’ 10, Romo was sacked by defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. The ball came free and the Cardinals recovered in the end zone for a would-be touchdown and 14-0 lead.
The Cowboys challenged the call, saying Romo’s arm was going forward. After review, the officials agreed, invoking the famous Tuck rule.
Instead of trailing 14-0, the Cowboys were given new life with a third and 9 at the 10. A 24-yard pass to Patrick Crayton followed. The Cowboys got another first down with completions of 19 and 3 yards to Marion Barber, which helped overcome a holding penalty on Marc Colombo.
On a first-and-10 at the Cowboys’ 45, Dallas finally solved the Rubik’s cube. A short pass over middle to Crayton turned into a 55-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 1:10 left.
The Cowboys had a chance to add to the lead before the half when a pooch kick bounced off a Cardinals player and was recovered by backup running back Tashard Choice.
But a 37-yard field goal try by Nick Folk bounced off the upright before the end of the half.
Still, a tone was set for the opening of the Cowboys offense. Consider that 91 of the 166 yards offense for the Cowboys in the first half came on that touchdown drive.
The Cowboys got the ball first to start the third quarter and promptly marched 77 yards to the end zone.
Receiver Terrell Owens, who caught only one pass in the first half, caught three passes on the drive as things began to open up for the Cowboys.
The drive included a 14-yard run by Felix Jones and a 10-yard completion to Witten.
Even the negatives no longer bothered the Cowboys. One play after tight end Martellus Bennett dropped what looked like an easy touchdown, Romo hit receiver Miles Austin for the go-ahead score.
The Cardinals refused to go away.
Warner led the Cardinals right back down the field, capping a 60-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald.
Actually Fitzgerald beat Jones for a touchdown a few plays earlier, but the points were taken off the board after the officials agreed with a Cowboys challenge that Fitzgerald did not get both feet in bounds.
The Cardinals simply went right back to the matchup of the 6-5 Fitzgerald and against the 5-9 Jones a couple of play later.
The Cowboys appeared to catch a break when an attempted onsides kick by the Cardinals failed when Choice recovered the ball for the Cowboys.
But the Cowboys were unable to take advantage of the short field because Romo returned to his mistake-prone ways.
On third and 9 at the Cardinals 31, a shotgun snap went through the hands of Romo. He fell on the ball for a 16-yard loss, taking the Cowboys out of potential field goal range.
The Cardinals took over from there, marching 89 yards to the end zone.
Fitzgerald makes his presence felt with a leaping catch over two defenders for a 39-yard reception.
Warner finishes the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Steve Breaston over Anthony Henry, putting the Cardinals back in front 21-14.
The got a 41-yard field goal to take a 24-14 lead late in the fourth before the Cowboys got a miracle 70-yard catch and run from Marion Barber to narrow the score to 24-21 with two minutes left.
The score set the stage for a wild Cowboys rally and an even wilder game-winning play by the Cardinals.