ARIZONA CARDINALS

By the numbers: Cardinals get back to basics in win over Cowboys

Jan 3, 2022, 5:00 PM

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) catches a pass for a first down as Dallas Cowbo...

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) catches a pass for a first down as Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) defends during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The Arizona Cardinals reminded us on Sunday they’re still the team that rattled off seven consecutive wins to start the season.

Knocking off one of the hottest squads in the league in the Dallas Cowboys 25-22, the Cardinals not only ended a three-game skid, they kept their NFC West title hopes alive with just one last regular-season game to go.

It was an all-around performance for Arizona, which saw offense, defense and special teams come up big at one point or another in Sunday’s tilt.

Let’s take a closer look at the Cardinals’ 11th victory of the season:

The buck stops here

The Cardinals built a lot of their early defensive success on the ability to stop opposing teams on third down.

Over the team’s three-game losing streak, however, that wasn’t the case, with Arizona giving up a 57% conversion rate to opposing offenses.

That all changed Sunday, with the Cowboys converting just three of their 11 third-down tries, a 27% mark.

Entering the matchup, Dallas had converted a combined 53% of their third down conversions over the past three weeks, all victories.

Clean sheet

One of the biggest developments on Sunday was the fact that the Cardinals didn’t give the ball away.

Over the team’s three-game skid, quarterback Kyler Murray tossed three interceptions, all resulting in touchdowns for the other side.

It’s an impressive mark for the signal caller, given the Cowboys are one of the top teams when it comes to committing turnovers and roster the league leader in interceptions in cornerback Trevon Diggs.

Rumblin’

Despite running back James Conner’s absence on Sunday, the Cardinals made a concerted effort to establish the run.

Averaging four yards per carry on its way to 127 rushing yards, a platoon of rushers led by running back Chase Edmonds and Murray were able to get enough going on the ground to open up more in the passing game.

Arizona’s 32 carries were the most since its Week 13 win over the Chicago Bears (35). In the previous three losses, the Cardinals ran the rock no more than 22 times.

The established run game, paired with the team’s stinginess in the turnover department, translated into a successful time of possession battle for Arizona, controlling the football for nearly 35 minutes.

The best way to stop one of the hottest offenses in the game is to keep it off the field.

Less laundry

Yes, the Cardinals still shot themselves in the foot thanks to yet another penalty on an opening drive.

But for the first time in four weeks, they didn’t let that dictate the flow of momentum or outcome of the game.

When the dust cleared Sunday afternoon, the Cardinals had committed seven penalties for 45 yards. The same couldn’t be said for the Cowboys, who gave up 88 yards on 10 penalties.

Arizona had been called for at least seven penalties resulting in no less than 54 yards in every game since Week 11, including an 11-penalty, 85-yard showing in a Christmas Day loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Just for kicks

Cardinals kicker Matt Prater restored a whole lot of confidence on Sunday.

After dealing with holder issues and having an off night overall on Christmas Day resulting in two missed field goals and an extra point, the kicker was back hitting his mark on Sunday.

With punter Andy Lee back holding for Prater, the kicker converted all four of his field goal tries, including a 54-yarder just before halftime, as well as an extra point in the victory.

And let’s not forget his part as a wide receiver in forcing the Cowboys to burn a critical timeout that could have been used to challenge a potential Edmonds fumble late in the contest.

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By the numbers: Cardinals get back to basics in win over Cowboys