Sunday, December 4, 2011
Wrap-up: Cardinals 19, Cowboys 13 (OT)
By Mike Sando
Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' performance during their game against the Dallas Cowboys at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 13:
What it means: The Cardinals can feel better about quarterback Kevin Kolb and their defense after Kolb's 52-yard scoring pass to LaRod Stephens-Howling in overtime. Kolb was back in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 30. He struggled early, but a strong second half and overtime gave him something to build around heading into the final month of the season. That was important for Kolb and the team. Arizona's defensive improvement has been ongoing. This was another step forward on that front.
What I liked: The Arizona defense played well enough to keep the Cardinals in the game while the Arizona offense struggled. Kolb bounced back to lead the Cardinals on two scoring drives to open the second half. He did a good job getting Andre Roberts involved, a change from earlier in the season. Kolb played with more awareness in the pocket, including when he peeked over his shoulder before rolling right and finding Larry Fitzgerald for a near-reception (Fitzgerald did not get both feet down). The Cardinals' defense got pressure on Tony Romo, including in key situations. There were also times when Romo could find no receivers open downfield, inviting sacks.
What I didn't like: The Cardinals got nothing going offensively in the first half. That changed to open the second half, but a false-start penalty against right tackle Brandon Keith derailed an attempt to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Another false-start penalty, this one against Daryn Colledge, set back a fourth-quarter drive when the score was tied and Arizona needed to rally. There were lots of Cowboys fans at University of Phoenix Stadium. Crowd noise seemed to be a factor on the false-start penalty against Colledge. Early Doucet, reliable on third down to this point in the season, dropped a third-down pass when the Cardinals were deep in their own territory with less than four minutes remaining in the game.
Quotebook: The score was tied 13-13 midway through the fourth quarter when Fox analyst John Lynch said, "This Cardinals defense is for real." Those words seemed most unlikely when that same defense was struggling early in the season. The recent progress on defense has come since the team gave more playing time to Sam Acho and, to a lesser extent, O'Brien Schofield. Players have also had more time to learn the scheme coordinator Ray Horton installed beginning in August.
What's next: The Cardinals are home against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14.