Behind Enemy Lines: Arizona Cardinals open home slate against Cowboys

Sep 25, 2017, 7:33 AM
Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott (21) takes the hand off from Dak Prescott (4) in the first half of ...
Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott (21) takes the hand off from Dak Prescott (4) in the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers onSunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

A breakthrough offensive performance in the fourth quarter and an interception from safety Tyrann Mathieu helped the Arizona Cardinals pick up their first win of the season against the Colts Sunday in Indianapolis.

At 1-1 on the season, the Cardinals are preparing for their first home game at University of Phoenix Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

The Cowboys enter Week 3 trending in the wrong direction. After dominating Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense in Week 1, Dallas suffered a beat down against the Broncos in Denver. Quarterback Trevor Siemian torched the Cowboys’ secondary and the Broncos defense shut down Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Dallas and Arizona have met a total of 88 times, and the Cowboys have won 55 contests. The two teams last squared off in Nov. 2014, and the Cardinals won 28-14 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. In that contest, Brandon Weeden played quarterback for Dallas and DeMarco Murray was in the backfield.

For the first time in the regular season, the Cardinals’ defense will have to stop the Cowboys’ dynamic duo of quarterback Dak Prescott and Elliott.

All week, we’ll take you to Arlington to give you an inside look at the story lines and players surrounding the prime time showdown between the Cowboys and Cardinals.

It’s Behind Enemy Lines.

Monday, September 25

Want Dak Prescott to bounce back vs. Arizona Cardinals? These guys will need to help him (Dallas Morning News)

But Dak is a different story because for Dak to perform, it requires everyone to come together. This line has never been quite as good at pass protection as it is at pushing defenders out of the way for DeMarco Murray or for Zeke. The Cardinals will come after Prescott in their home opener.

Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith opens up ahead of Cardinals game as he returns to where his career nearly ended (Dallas Morning News)

It was New Year’s Day 2016 when Smith crumpled to the turf at the University of Phoenix Stadium. He not only tore his anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee but also suffered serious nerve damage.

Key Cowboys-Cardinals matchups: Dez Bryant vs. sticky Patrick Peterson, why that battle excites Dak (Dallas Morning News)

Dez Bryant has squared off against two outstanding cornerbacks the first two weeks in Janoris Jenkins and Aqib Talib. But he might be facing the best Monday night in six-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett called Peterson an “incredible athlete” with “stickiness as a cover guy.”

Elliott’s hustle, energy level will be watched closely against Cardinals (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

The second-year running back took responsibility for his play — which resulted in career lows for rush attempts (9) and rush yards (8) — in the Dallas Cowboys’ 42-17 loss to the Broncos. He’s also playing the legal waiting game from week to week over his six-game suspension without pay for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

DeMarcus Lawrence has been good, but Cowboys need more (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

End DeMarcus Lawrence had two sacks against Denver and has 3.5 sacks through the first two games, which ranks second in the NFL. Calais Campbell of Jacksonville leads the league with four sacks.

Can Lawrence maintain his fast start against the Arizona Cardinals Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium?

Larry Fitzgerald, Jason Witten share a mutual respect (ESPN NFL Nation)

Among the league’s all-time leaders, Fitzgerald ranks third in catches (1,134) and ninth in yards (14,484) over 14 seasons. Witten is fourth in catches (1,106) and 26th in yards (12,044) in 15 seasons.

Together, they’ve combined for 26,528 receiving yards — the equivalent of 15.07 miles.

One of Jason Witten’s secrets is in parking lot when he arrives every day (ESPN NFL Nation)

Surely there is something genetic that has allowed him to play 221 straight games, the longest current streak in football for a position player and the most in team history. There is some luck, too.

But Witten steals a line from golf legend Ben Hogan: The secret is in the dirt.

Dallas Cowboys will find hospitality in the desert (The Landry Hat)

As much as Cardinals fans hate to admit it, Dallas Cowboys nation is definitely strong within Arizona borders. It’s proven every time the ‘Boys come pay the Cardinals a visit. The red sea that Arizona prides themselves in turns into a blue and silver sea in a hurry, and it’s almost like the Cowboys have a home field advantage.

Saturday, September 23

Garrett has no plans to address team over President Trump’s anthem remarks (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

“We have an approach that we believe in,” Garrett said. “I have no real comment beyond that.”

No Cowboys player has protested the anthem to date and Garrett expects none will in light of Trump’s comments.

• Cardinals preparing for an Ezekiel Elliott who will be ‘ready to roll’ (ESPN NFL Nation)

All week, as the status of Elliott for Monday night’s game at University of Phoenix Stadium faced some uncertainty, the Cardinals’ message was the same: It didn’t matter if Elliott played or not because the Cowboys wouldn’t change how they run the ball if Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris or Rod Smith was starting instead of Elliott.

Jaylon Smith’s return to University of Phoenix Stadium no big deal (ESPN NFL Nation)

Smith suffered the injury with eight minutes to play in the first quarter when he was shoved from behind by an Ohio State offensive lineman and his foot stuck awkwardly in the ground. As Smith was getting examined on the field, Buckeyes star Ezekiel Elliott came over to him.

• Cowboys defense can improve with the help of their offense (ESPN NFL Nation)

Through two games, opposing quarterbacks are completing 72.9 percent of their passes against the Cowboys. Only the New Orleans Saints (80.3) and Miami Dolphins (79.5) are allowing a higher completion percentage.

• All Eyes On CB & WR Depth Heading Into Cowboys’ Trip To Arizona (

With the Cowboys completing their final practice on Saturday, it was confirmed that they’ll be without two cornerbacks for this Week 3 game. Nolan Carroll was ruled out by the concussion he suffered in Denver last week, and Chidobe Awuzie was confirmed out with his hamstring injury.

New “Kicks” Still Providing Same Kicks For Always-Reliable Kicker Dan Bailey

As for Bailey’s secret to his success, it all starts with mechanics and repetition, and perhaps the oldest pair of cleats in the league, held together the last few years with superglue and duct tape.

• Why Dez Bryant can still be considered among NFL’s elite WRs after slow start (Dallas Morning News)

“We just both have to be better,” Prescott said. “I’ve got to make better throws, give him better chances. He would say that he’s got to get open more. He’d say he’s got to [catch] those 50-50 balls. It’s early, but we’ve definitely got to get that cleaned up and cleaned up fast.”

Friday, September 22

Will the Cowboys’ secondary be healthy enough to contain Cardinals? (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Scandrick missed Sunday’s game vs. the Denver Broncos, recovering from surgery on his left hand. He is expected to play against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday.

But the Cowboys were without cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) and Nolan Carroll (concussion). Awuzie admitted his hamstring felt sore on Wednesday, and worked on the side Thursday.

Trips to Phoenix have brought Cowboys stranger things lately (ESPN NFL Nation)

If form holds Monday when the Dallas Cowboys take on the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium, something weird will happen.

The Cowboys’ last three games — all losses — in Glendale, Arizona, have been decided in the final five seconds of regulation or overtime with strange situations.

In first public comments since lack of effort against Broncos, Ezekiel Elliott says ‘I was frustrated, and I wasn’t myself‘ (Dallas Morning News)

Elliott takes full responsibility for his lackadaisical response during two interceptions in the 25-point loss to the Broncos. As he stands in front of his locker at The Star for five minutes Thursday, he isn’t defensive or evasive as he answers questions about what took place.

Charles Barkley, who threw a man through a window, says Zeke needs to grow up (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

NBA legend Charles Barkley thinks Ezekiel Elliott needs to grow up.

The controversial but loveable TNT analyst, who has had his own run-ins with the law over the years, said famous people in today’s society, especially athletes, need to be cognizant of cell phones filming at all times.

Jason Garrett addresses effort issue with Ezekiel Elliott, is ready to ‘keep moving forward’ (Dallas Morning News)

Jason Garrett acknowledged that he’s addressed Ezekiel Elliott’s lack of effort in the Denver game during two interceptions.

The Cowboys head coach also made it clear in Thursday’s new conference that he’s ready to move on.

Thursday, September 21

Scout’s Eye: How Dez Needs To Play Peterson; Another Opportunity For D-Law (

For Bryant to be successful, he must keep Peterson’s hands off him. He must be ready to slap, swat or club them. This is Peterson’s way of holding a receiver along the line. Bryant will need to match Peterson’s physicality in this game. Peterson will not be afraid of Bryant’s speed, because he can match him step for step.

• Cowboys’ Orlando Scandrick to play against Cardinals in what he calls a must-win game (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick will return to practice Thursday and play against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday after sitting out Sunday’s 42-17 blowout loss to the Denver Broncos with a fractured bone in his left hand.

Scandrick doesn’t worry about the Cowboys’ ability to bounce back, but he does call the Cardinals game a must-win for a young team that was beaten in all phases against the Broncos.

• Michael Irvin to confront LaDainian Tomlinson for saying Elliott ‘quit’ (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin plans to confront NFL Network colleague and Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson for accusing Ezekiel Elliott of “quitting on his team” in the Dallas Cowboys’ 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos Sunday.

A livid Irvin declared his intentions during a radio interview on New York’s WFAN. Irvin said quitter is the “dirtiest” word you can call an NFL player.

• Ezekiel Elliott’s attorney reveals thoughts on NFL’s intentions behind suspending Cowboys RB (Dallas Morning News)

Ezekiel Elliott’s attorney, Thomas Melsheimer, recently joined Norm Hitzges and Donovan Lewis on KTCK 96.7 FM/1310AM The Ticket to discuss his client’s case. Here are some highlights from their interview.

Certainly I think the NFL’s motivation was in some sense was laudatory to try to make sure they’re taking a tough stand on domestic violence. On the other hand, you have to do it the right way or, frankly, you set everything back.

 Cole Beasley: ‘We’re not worried’ about Ezekiel Elliott (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

“When you lose a game like that, people start picking at some things and I think that’s more of what this is and more of the case,” Beasley said. “We know what that guy brings to the table. We know what he can do. We’re not worried.”

Wednesday, September 20

Ezekiel Elliott has security detail, sometimes with off-duty Dallas police officer, but no ‘Dez Rules’ (Dallas Morning News)

Jerry Jones said after the Giants game that the Cowboys would spare no expense in helping the Dallas Cowboys running back or any other player overcome off-the-field challenges.

Why Cowboys coach Jason Garrett props up Dak Prescott but not Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Morning News)

Head Coach Jason Garrett is moving on by supporting Dak Prescott and letting the critics have their way with Ezekiel Elliott. It’s an approach that makes sense for a few reasons, one of them being that Prescott represents this team’s long-term future and Elliott may never see a second contract.

Has the NFL figured out the Cowboys’ offense? Garrett says not so fast (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

The questions are why weren’t the Cowboys able to do it and did the Broncos provide a blueprint on how to stop the Cowboys offense for the rest of the teams around the NFL.

Mailbag: Changing Up The Route Running? Improving The CB Position? (

The secondary was great against the Giants but struggled versus the Broncos. Those things happen in this league. Roll with Scandrick, Brown and Lewis would be my best answer. To me that group is better. Then, just hope for the best.

Damontre Moore Is Back, How Does He Help The Dallas Cowboys? (

Formerly suspended defensive end Damontre Moore is now eligible to return to play once again. Making his long-awaited Cowboys debut this Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals, Moore may end up kicking a few other defensive linemen out of their normal rotations.

In 13 years with Cowboys, L.P. Ladouceur has sprouted a snapper tree (ESPN NFL Nation)

As L.P. Ladouceur watched the Monday Night Football opener between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings, he nudged his wife, Brooke.

“Look, Zach is snapping,” he said.

“What?” his wife replied.

Cowboys have won two straight with Craig Wrolstad as referee (ESPN NFL Nation)

Coming off a disheartening loss to the Denver Broncos, maybe things are looking up for the Dallas Cowboys this week.

Craig Wrolstad will be the referee for the Cowboys’ game against the Arizona Cardinals on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, and Dallas has won its past two contests with Wrolstad as ref.

Tuesday, September 19

Garrett plans to address Elliot’s uncharacteristic effort in Denver (

Garrett said on Monday, the day off for the players, he had yet to speak with Elliott but assured the media he not only would address the play in private, but quite possibly in front of the team as a teaching moment.

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot facing different kind of adversity in Week 3 (ESPN NFL Nation)

Sunday’s loss was something new, and questions swirl around both for different reasons.

For Elliott, it’s about a lack of effort in chasing down Broncos defenders on Prescott interceptions. For Prescott, it’s about failing to make things happen when the run game was stalled.

Jason Witten’s mood tied to wins, not records (ESPN NFL Nation)

Another week and another milestone for Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

Witten became the franchise leader in most games played in a Cowboys uniform with 225, but he also became just the second tight end in NFL history to eclipse 12,000 yards.

Witten’s mood was more in line with a 25-point loss than another accolade.

• As Ezekiel Elliott-NFL showdown enters pivotal phase, here are latest two actions (Dallas News)

Even as Ezekiel Elliott’s rare on-field struggles Sunday against the Denver Broncos are dissected, his off-field legal showdown with the NFL enters a pivotal phase.

Two actions Monday morning cleared the way for a federal appeals court to make a key ruling on whether Elliott can continue playing this season, a decision that could come down any time this week.

• Jerry Jones: Elliott was not alone, several Cowboys didn’t show great effort on interception return (Dallas News)

During his weekly radio appearance Tuesday morning, the Cowboys owner and general manager shifted the blame away from just Elliott.

• What’s next for ailing Dallas Cowboys? (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett called cornerbacks Nolan Carroll (concussion) and Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) day to day after each exited with injuries against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

• Should the Dallas Cowboys trade for Kenny Vaccaro? (The Landry Hat)

One area of major concern for the Cowboys following the humiliating 42-17 loss to the Broncos was their defensive secondary.

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