Cards hold off Cowboys 25-22 in matchup of playoff teams

Jan 2, 2022, 2:49 AM | Updated: 8:50 pm
Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) forces a fumble by Dallas Cowboys quarterbac...

Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Isaiah Simmons (9) forces a fumble by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. The Cardinals recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

(AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The troubles for Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals weren’t anything that a trip to the star quarterback’s favorite stadium couldn’t fix.

They might be back in two weeks for a wild-card game.

Murray threw two touchdown passes to Antoine Wesley and the Cardinals held on to beat the Dallas Cowboys 25-22 in a matchup of playoff-bound teams Sunday.

The outcome didn’t do much to change the races for the NFC’s No. 1 seed or the NFC West, but did leave the Cowboys and Cardinals with matching 11-5 records after Arizona ended a three-game skid and stopped the NFC East champion’s four-game winning streak.

The teams go into the final weekend as the fourth and fifth seeds in the playoffs, which would mean a first-round meeting — once again at AT&T Stadium since Dallas won its division. The wild-card round is guaranteed for both teams since Green Bay’s 37-10 win over Minnesota on Sunday night left them with no chance to get the NFC’s first-round bye.

Murray improved to 8-0 as a starter at the home of the Cowboys. Most of those victories were as a Texas high school playoff star in the Dallas area, but the past two have been as a pro after last season’s 38-10 rout.

“Coming home, I can’t lose coming home,” Murray said. “That’s just how I feel. I’m not worried about two weeks from now. We got Seahawks next week, divisional game at home. The guys will come ready to play.”

The Cardinals’ victory over Dallas in 2020 was the first game after Dak Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury. The star quarterback’s presence was felt in a fourth-quarter comeback that fell short after early misfiring similar to how the offense looked for weeks in the wake of Prescott’s calf strain in Week 6.

Prescott’s third TD pass, a 4-yarder to Amari Cooper, and a 2-point conversion toss to Cedrick Wilson pulled Dallas within three with five minutes remaining.

Murray ran for a first down and passed for another before Chase Edmonds went 11 yards to force Dallas to use its final timeout.

On the next play, Edmonds lost the ball at the end of a 6-yard run but was ruled down as Dallas’ Osa Odighizuwa recovered right on the sideline.

Since the Cowboys were out of timeouts, they couldn’t challenge even though the replay made it appear the call could have been overturned. As a result, Murray finished off a turnover-free showing against the NFL’s leading team in takeaways coming in.

“Playing against the refs again, like usual. It seems like an every-week occurrence,” Dallas defensive end Randy Gregory said. “We just have to tune that out and just deal with it. That’s a good team. Hopefully we see them in the playoffs.”

The Cardinals reached 25 points for just the second time in seven games, sparked this time by a successful fake punt in the second quarter when Jonathan Ward made an improbable catch of upback Chris Banjo’s throw. A pass interference penalty would have made it a first down anyway.

The trickery and another interference flag on third down led to Murray’s 1-yard toss to Wesley on fourth down. The pair connected again from 19 yards in the third quarter for a 19-7 lead in yet another game without injured top receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Running back James Conner (heel) ended up not being able to go as well.

“They’ve been resilient this entire time, no matter what’s been said, or thought, outside of our building,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Those guys have worked their tails off and understand what we can be, and we’ve just got to keep fighting.”

The Cowboys were the healthiest they’ve been all season coming in, but lost receiver Michael Gallup to a left knee injury on his 21-yard TD catch for their first points late in the first half. Owner Jerry Jones said Gallup was out for the playoffs with what appeared to be an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament.

Murray was 26 of 38 for 263 yards and two touchdowns while Prescott finished 24 of 38 for 226 yards with a lost fumble when the Cowboys were down eight early in the fourth quarter.

Prescott’s fumble set up a short drive to the last of Matt Prater’s four field goals for a 25-14 lead.

SPREADING IT AROUND

Wesley, who has scored the past three Arizona touchdowns going back to last week’s loss to Indianapolis, had four catches for 30 yards. Christian Kirk (43 yards) and A.J. Green (42) each had a long catch to set up scores. Kirk finished with 79 yards on six catches, and Green had three for 74.

GROUND TO A HALT

The Cardinals shut down the struggling Dallas running game, holding Ezekiel Elliott to 16 yards on nine carries. Prescott was the leading Dallas rusher with 20 yards.

HOLDING THINGS UP

Dallas had four holding penalties, two of which wiped out third-down conversion runs. Both of those possessions ended in punts. The Cowboys committed 10 penalties for 88 yards, their fourth game with at least 10 this season.

“I think the biggest thing for us offensively was the timing of the penalties,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “That was a big part of the struggle.”

UP NEXT

Arizona’s regular-season finale is at home against Seattle on Sunday, while Dallas visits Philadelphia for a Saturday night game.

___

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Cards hold off Cowboys 25-22 in matchup of playoff teams