Rapid reactions: Cardinals use 1st-half dominance to upset Cowboys in Week 3

Sep 24, 2023, 6:11 PM | Updated: 11:03 pm

Cardinals QB Josh Dobbs (Felisa Cardenas/Arizona Sports)...

Cardinals QB Josh Dobbs (Felisa Cardenas/Arizona Sports)

(Felisa Cardenas/Arizona Sports)

After a rough two opening weeks for the Arizona Cardinals, the team did the improbable and upset the undefeated Dallas Cowboys in Week 3 with a 28-16 win.

Arizona took a 21-10 lead into halftime and put the game to bed with a Marquise Brown touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals allowed just one touchdown and three field goals to one of the NFL’s best offenses and put together a complete game at State Farm Stadium after posting a 1-13 record at home since Week 8 the 2021 season. The win also marks Jonathan Gannon’s first win as a head coach.

Arizona Sports’ hosts, reporters and editors share their thoughts on the Cardinals’ Week 3 win:

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: “You never know what is going to happen on any given Sunday in the NFL.”

How many times have you heard that or something similar in your years of football consumption?

Sunday’s 28-16 win for the Cardinals over the mighty Dallas Cowboys was a perfect example of it. Nobody gave Arizona a chance (yes, I’m including myself), but it once again thoroughly dominated a first half and did just enough in the second half to hold off a far more talented team.

I’ll say this, Joshua Dobbs is growing on me. He’s played incredibly efficient football the last two weeks and was the better quarterback on the field Sunday. Dobbs went 17-of-21 for 189 yards and a touchdown and showed grit again in the running game with a big 44-yard run early and a couple of short-yardage conversions late in the game that allowed the Cardinals to run out the clock.

James Conner has been a battering ram. He was just shy of the century mark and added three more runs of 20-plus yards on Sunday. Hollywood Brown had an impactful game. The offensive line dominated the vaunted Dallas front and paved the way for the Cardinals to pile up 222 yards on the ground with a mixture of brute strength and creativity.

Defensively, Kyzir White was a menace. Fourteen tackles and a game-sealing pick in the end zone will have him in the running for NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Rookie corner Kei’Trel Clark got picked on, but battled throughout the game.

If not for a couple of poorly-timed turnovers against Washington and if the defense could’ve made one stop in the second half last week, this Cardinals team could very well be 3-0.

And let’s face it — the Cardinals kind of own the Cowboys. The guys in red have won seven of the last eight meetings between the teams. Jonathan Gannon getting his first home win against a team like Dallas could (should) go a long way toward re-energizing a beleaguered Arizona fan base.

Three down, fourteen to go. But this season has already been way more enjoyable than most thought it would be. Kudos to the Cardinals.

Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke: Nobody expected the Cardinals to win this game. Let’s not pretend we all saw this coming. But when they carried the lead into halftime again, it suddenly became one they had to have.

This team’s priority right now is to build a culture, and I’d say they’re doing it. The defense plays with attitude, speed and tenacity — “see ball, go get ball,” as Kyzir White put it after the game. Dobbs gets better each week on offense. The players will tell you they crave accountability and attention to detail, and they’re getting that with this new coaching staff. When you tear something down and start building it back up again, you need a foundation to do it the right way. And we’re starting to see that foundation. Letting another lead slip away in the fourth quarter would’ve undercut all the work they’ve been putting in. That would’ve been demoralizing.

It didn’t happen though. The Cardinals learned from their Week 2 mistakes and locked it down against a Cowboys team that many feel is a legit Super Bowl contender. This defense is the kind of defense that can revitalize a fanbase. They’re relentless and they don’t really have any big names — other than Budda Baker, who didn’t even play. That makes them an easy group to root for, because so much of what they do hinges on effort and self-confidence in the face of overwhelming doubt from the outside. Honestly, you could argue that’s what sports are all about.

After an offseason full of narratives about tanking and how the Cardinals will be underdogs in every game they play and how they should just waste a year of everyone’s careers and go 0-17 so they can draft Caleb Williams even though Williams might not want to play here, they look like an actual team. They’re organized, aggressive and relatively disciplined. Sunday was only one win, and they’re still just 1-2. Nobody’s suddenly selling playoff tickets to State Farm Stadium. But they’re really only two or three plays away from being 3-0 right now. They’ve led every game in the fourth quarter, and that alone is a stat even the most hardcore fans wouldn’t have anticipated a month ago.

Speaking of the fans, how great was it to see the Arizona fans get to enjoy a win at home, finally? And wasn’t it that much better seeing all those fans in blue look around in confusion and disbelief? It goes back to building a foundation. Part of everything you’re building has to be rooted in re-establishing a home-field advantage. You can’t control who buys your tickets, but you can control which team’s fans get something to cheer for on a Sunday. The Cardinals had one home win since October 2021 coming into today. That weighs on your fanbase because it makes going to the games a chore instead of a party. But this new regime is already 1-1 in Glendale, and they could easily be 2-0. And that’s starting to make football in this city fun again.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: Kyzir White was asked after the game what went through his head when he saw Dak Prescott’s pass headed his way. All he said was “Don’t drop it.” Words that could be applied to the entire team. Three straight weeks with a lead in the fourth quarter, looking to finally bring home the first win of the year, the Cardinals didn’t drop it.

Finish. That was the word of the day. For most of the second half the offense looked stale, falling into the same patterns we saw against the Giants and Commanders. Great start, slow cold fade. But Michael Wilson was so open it was like he was a mirage on the field and his catch (don’t drop it part two) was exactly the kind of caffeinated jolt the offense needed. Finishing that drive with a touchdown was exactly the kind of act this offense was incapable of in weeks one and two.

But nobody rose to the occasion more than a defense that stoned the Cowboys in the red zone. Four second half possessions for Dallas – all of which ended inside the 10 yard line – with only 6 points on two short field goals to show for it. The Cowboys red zone offense was seen as their soft spot all week. The Cards defense recognized it and squeezed.

It was a shocking turn of events and a reminder that NFL football is so hard to predict. But one thing is clear after three weeks; this team is too competitive to get the top pick in the draft. It speaks volumes of this new coaching staff and the GM who hired it. Things can change, they always do in this league. But considering what they’ve shown us in the first three weeks, without two of their best players, it may be time to start resetting expectations.

Kevin Zimmerman, editor: It seems like time to crown this Cardinals coaching staff as competent, even creative. In the first half, we saw Arizona attack Dallas pass rush star Micah Parsons immediately, inviting him to bite with a free lane to tackle running back James Conner from behind before Parsons realized Dobbs had kept the ball and was looping around and down the left sideline.

The Cardinals kept it up with a diverse ground game, and even when the Cowboys took a halftime break to figure things out and stamp out that ground success, there was enough play-calls left in the tank for Arizona to win.

Maybe over time, more tape produced of offensive coordinator Drew Petzing and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis will allow opponents to catch up. But the fact of the matter is the Cardinals’ youngsters picked on a very veteran coaching staff led by Mike McCarthy and a one-time Arizona head-coaching candidate, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

More than that: Gannon’s team has put together three competitive games where penalties, turnovers and baffling execution weren’t the main storylines. The Cardinals are indeed bought in, prideful in their efforts and smart. It’s unclear just how talented they are — injuries piling up would further test this team — but for now, it’s obvious they are far from the laughing stock of the NFL. In other words, not where a very large majority of us thought they’d be.

Tyler Drake, Cardinals reporter and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast: Well then!

The Cardinals shocked the NFL world with a dominant showing over the Cowboys and their gobs of fans on Sunday.

That complete game Arizona had been looking for the past two games finally made an appearance thanks to a number of factors, beginning with Drew Petzing’s play-calling.

The first-year OC pulled out all the stops throughout the rout, utilizing Rondale Moore as a runner, shovel passing to Zach Ertz and not really taking the foot off the gas pedal (as seen in Weeks 1 and 2) for a full four quarters.

Secondly, Kyzir White is a bad man who may have just had the best postgame press conference of the season, whether he was talking about his interception, the trash talk he’s about to unload on his Cowboy-loving family members, his pure hatred for Dallas or his reaction to learning JG isn’t a fan of Gatorade baths.

Speaking of Gannon, he got the proverbial monkey off his back with win No. 1 as a head coach. You could tell it meant something to him, but at the same time, was already looking ahead to more success.

And you got to love what you saw out of GM Monti Ossenfort. He was absolutely jacked up as players and coaches walked off the field.

Can’t forget about Dobbs, either, who is doing it with his legs as well as his arm.

There was definitely some validation for the Cardinals’ new regime on Sunday. The tanking talk and 2024 NFL Draft chatter for at least a day takes a backseat to the present. Chalk that up as a W.

And I’ll say this, the way the Chicago Bears and New York Jets look three games in, I’m not so sure the Cardinals are the team to beat for the No. 1 draft spot. Hopefully I don’t get old takes exposed!

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