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Anatomy of Final Possession that Sealed Cardinals Win

Checks by QB Kyler Murray, big plays and Cowboys being unable to challenge a play help Cardinals seal the victory.

Sunday’s game was potentially up for grabs late in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals led 22-7 entering the final 15 minutes after the Cowboys totaled one yard on their first two possessions of the third quarter.

It seemed with all the talk during the week about Dallas receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, no one knew much about Cedrick Wilson. The Arizona defenders, especially cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., appeared befuddled by Wilson’s presence after Gallup left in the second quarter with an injury.

Quarterback Dak Prescott found Wilson wide open for a 2-yard touchdown with 13:49 remaining in the game, cutting the Cardinals lead to 22-14.

At the end of the third quarter and into the fourth, the Cardinals had three possessions total 12 yards on 12 plays. Thankfully, one of those ended with a Matt Prater field goal because the possession began on the Dallas 44-yard line after a fumble recovery and was helped by a facemask flag on defensive lineman Osa Odighizua with 8:36 on the clock.

Prescott then moved the team again, driving the Cowboys 75 yards in eight plays, while taking only 3:50 off the clock. Wilson had a 7-yard catch on fourth-and-1 at the Cowboys’ 34-yard line, completed a 31-yard pass to running back Tony Pollard, added another 8-yard reception and then scored the 2-point conversion that brought Dallas to within three points.

That’s when the Cardinals got to work and were able to run the final 4:42 off the clock, while being helped by the Cowboys having only two timeouts remaining.

They had used a timeout in the third quarter when the Cardinals faced fourth-and-5 at the Dallas 8-yard line. Kicker Matt Prater was there to attempt a field goal, but suddenly quarterback Kyler Murray came running on the field.

The confused Cowboys called timeout, which they could have used later when running back Chase Edmonds might have fumbled near the sideline after a 6-yard run with 2:51 remaining in the game. However, with no timeouts at that point, they weren’t able to challenge the play. The clock kept moving, and when Murray ran for nine yards for a first down at the two-minute warning, the game was over.

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Head coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged the play was designed by special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers in hopes Dallas would call timeout.

Said Kingsbury, “Coach Rodgers had that one up. Tremendous thought by him and it ended up being a huge play in the game. They didn't have (the ability to challenge), so gotta give him a lot of credit for that call.”

Murray said, “That's something we practiced. We called it and at the end of the day, that was a crucial moment in the game where they had to burn a timeout. I don't know if Chase actually fumbled the ball, but they couldn't do anything.”

In that final possession, Murray also had some key checks on plays that resulted in positive yards.

“He checked a couple of those option plays on his own,” Kingsbury said. “He pulled the zone read, we had the quarterback draw early. And we knew we had kept the defense on the field too long. We knew we needed to put that one away and just a big-time drive by everybody on offense.”

Said Murray, “That's what winning teams do. When you want to be one of those guys, the quarterback position that when you got the ball the game's over, that was that moment for me and the offense to put it away. We put it on our shoulders. That's what we practice. Four-minute offenses to go down and not give it back to them and that's what we did. We executed what we practice all the time.”

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was pleased his unit didn’t have to go out on the field again.

“That was awesome,” Joseph said. “Obviously that was a great team win for those guys to finish that game on the field after we let them score two touchdowns late like that. But to finish on the field, that's what team football is, right?

“So it was fun to watch K1 and those guys finish the game that way. It was fun to watch our team win today.”