Cardinals the True Stars Monday Night in Win Over Cowboys

Howard Balzer

It was a rough start for the Cardinals after a week of homecoming hype leading up to Monday Night Football.

However, after three possessions went nowhere and two deep passes by quarterback Kyler Murray misfired, it was fitting that a player originally faced with an agonizing decision became the linchpin in two fumbles from Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott that led to 14 points.

That would be defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who, on a bittersweet night following the funeral of his father Saturday, recovered an Elliott fumble and forced another to put his stamp on what turned out to be a 38-10 Cardinals victory. It was the first time in his career Phillips both forced and recovered a fumble in the same game.

Murray completed just three of his first 12 passes and finished with nine total completions. However, he connected with wide receiver Christian Kirk on an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Cardinals a 21-3 lead and rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts.

He now has 370 yards on 51 attempts (7.3 average) with six touchdowns in six games.

Said Kirk, “It’s crazy, surreal. Something about the bright lights. He didn’t flinch. You saw what he did with his legs. There were some big plays. The scoreboard says it all.”

In the second half and playing with a big lead, the ground attack controlled the game. After an interception by cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on the opening Dallas possession of the third quarter — he did get away with pass interference — the Cardinals moved 79 yards in nine plays with all the scrimmage yards on runs. Six yards were on a Cowboys pass interference penalty.

Running back Kenyan Drake had three carries for 43 yards, Chase Edmonds three for 19 and Murray two for 11, including a one-yard touchdown.

At halftime, the Cardinals had 75 yards rushing yards on 15 carries, including seven for 56 from Murray. Drake had just 19 yards on seven attempts by that point.

In the second half, Drake added 145 yards on 13 runs, including the final score of the game when he went 69 yards untouched. He finished with 20 attempts for 164 yards and two scores.

Amazingly, Murray completed just one pass in five attempts in the second half. It was a short pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins that he turned into a 60-yard play and led to a 26-yard field goal from kicker Zane Gonzalez.

Overall in the second half, the Cardinals had 186 yards rushing and 49 net yards passing because of an 11-yard sack.

Of the team’s 438 total yards, 209 came on three plays.

Most important, the Cardinals had no turnovers and four takeaways, with safety Budda Baker registering the first interception of his career against Dallas backup quarterback Andy Dalton, who filled in for his first start in the absence of Dak Prescott (ankle).

Baker and his teammates celebrated the takeaway by running to the end zone where several defensive players lined up like bowling pins and Baker rolled the football toward them as if he were in the Professional Bowling Association. Everyone then fell backward with their legs in the air, seemingly signifying a strike.

Baker said the idea for the celebration came from cornerback Patrick Peterson.

When Phillips — who is a self-described bowling savant — was asked about it, he said, “It was wonderful, but I was too tired to run down there. After seeing it, I wish I had run down there.”

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury summed up the night succinctly, saying, “It feels good to have a 38-10 win and know I can still improve as a coach and play-caller.”

Murray felt the same way, refusing to revel in the victory and saying, “I’ve got to be better.”

Of course, there won’t be much time to truly celebrate anyway. The 24-hour rule is cut short after Monday night games, especially when undefeated Seattle comes to State Farm Stadium next Sunday coming off their bye. The two teams will then play in Seattle on Thursday night Nov. 19.

“We’ll enjoy it tonight and be ready to get back to work Tuesday,” Kingsbury said.

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