NFL Nation: 2010 Cowboys at Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- This is how a game ends between two bad teams. Arizona kicker Jay Feely made a 48-yard field goal with five seconds left to give the Cardinals a dramatic 27-26 victory in University of Phoenix Stadium.

A missed point-after attempt by Cowboys kicker David Buehler with 1:41 to play -- just after Miles Austin’s 37-yard go-ahead touchdown reception -- gave the Cardinals the chance to win the game.

Terrible.

What it means?: The Cowboys now have 10 losses on the season. That's the first time that's happened since 2004, when a 6-10 mark finished Bill Parcells' second season. The mistakes the team made in this one are another example of just how bad it is.

Jon Kitna gets knocked out: The Cowboys were down to one quarterback when Jon Kitna went out with a hip injury in the first half. Kinta was replaced by Stephen McGee, who completed 11 of 17 passes for 111 yards and one touchdown. McGee rallied his team from a 24-20 deficit with 3:45 to play. He drove the Cowboys 73 yards in eight plays, finding Austin for the 37-yard score. But Buehler missed the extra point, allowing the Cardinals a chance to win in the final two minutes.

Defense is solid until. . . : The defense, which has struggled the past few weeks, gave up only one big play, a 74-yard touchdown pass in the first half. It held the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald to one key catch that kept the game-winning field goal drive alive. Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins did a good job of taking him out of the game for the most part. But the Cardinals were able to get a 49-yard Feely field goal to push their lead to 24-20 in the fourth quarter. However, another wide receiver gained over 100 yards, this time Cardinals rookie Andre Roberts, who had five catches for 110 yards and one touchdown. It's the fifth consecutive week the Cowboys defense allowed a receiver to get more than 100 yards. And rookie Skelton moved the Cardinals 46 yards in about 90 seconds to set up Feely’s game-winning kick.

Run game excels: There was concern about how the Cowboys would run the ball with the return of Marion Barber, who missed the past three games with a strained calf. All three backs got their touches, and when the night was over the Cowboys rushed 34 times for 183 yards. Barber did get a touchdown, for 24 yards, but committed a bad penalty by taking off his helmet to celebrate following the score.

What's next?: The Cowboys finish the season on the road Jan. 2 against the Eagles. The game might mean something for the Eagles -- playoff seeding and NFC East title could be on the line depending on what happens Sunday. The Cowboys have decisions to make regarding the quarterback position. Should they bring one in? How healthy is Kitna?

Wrap-up: Cardinals 27, Cowboys 26

December, 25, 2010
12/25/10
10:57
PM ET
Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' performance in a 27-26 win against Dallas in Week 16:

What it means: The Cardinals (5-10) can feel better about some of their young players as the offseason approaches. They still have significant issues to address, of course, but this performance represented a welcome departure from recent form. It was easier to envision rookie quarterback John Skelton in the No. 2 role next season after watching him against Dallas. The fourth-quarter drive Skelton led to the winning 48-yard field goal atoned for long stretches without any offensive production. Arizona played with great energy on defense and finally made a big play in the passing game when Skelton found fellow rookie Andre Roberts for a 74-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Roberts, the new third receiver now that Early Doucet is on injured reserve, had five receptions for 110 yards. One drawback, perhaps, was any ground Arizona lost in 2011 draft positioning.

What I liked: The Cardinals seemed fully engaged in the game and played with purpose on defense. The team used a four-man front with success early. Defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell made disruptive plays. Cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Greg Toler returned interceptions for touchdowns. The energy was there early even though the Cowboys enjoyed considerable support from fans in attendance. Dockett also caught my attention hustling downfield to block for Rodgers-Cromartie, one of the fastest players in the league. The Cardinals played as though this game meant something to them. Running back Beanie Wells stood out for making an effective block in blitz pickup, enabling Skelton's long scoring strike to Roberts. Skelton's clutch 26-yard strike to Larry Fitzgerald on fourth down helped Arizona move into position for Jay Feely's game-winner.

What I didn't like: Much of the Cardinals' limited success this season has been unsustainable. The Cardinals' two interception returns for touchdowns Saturday gave them 12 return scores this season, one off the NFL record Seattle set in 2003. Arizona became the first team since New England in 1999 to score twice on interception returns in the same first quarter. That's a great note, but not reflective of production a team can rely upon over the long term. The Cardinals beat Oakland in Week 3 only when the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski missed a 32-yard field-goal try on the last play of the game, his shortest miss since 2006. Against New Orleans in Week 5, Arizona became the second team in NFL history to score at least 30 points without a rushing or passing touchdown. Arizona later beat a Denver team in disarray after the Broncos fired coach Josh McDaniels.

Disappearing wideouts: Arizona held a 21-10 halftime lead despite throwing no passes for Fitzgerald or Steve Breaston. Fitzgerald came into the game against Dallas having caught at least one pass in 100 consecutive games. He made his one and only reception count against the Cowboys.

On their minds: Cardinals defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson went to a hospital for observation after fainting at the stadium before kickoff. The players he coaches came through with big play after big play. Were they inspired? I don't know, but there was recent precedent in the division for a defense making plays after losing its secondary coach unexpectedly. The San Francisco 49ers collected four picks against Seattle in Week 14 after their secondary coach, Johnnie Lynn, resigned abruptly.

Trending: The Cardinals had more problems executing shotgun snaps. A thumb injury affected center Lyle Sendlein in a game against Denver. Skelton appeared unready for the third-down snap that hit the ground against the Cowboys.

Rookie watch: Outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield collected a fourth-quarter sack to force a Cowboys punt. With Joey Porter injured and inactive, Schofield was scheduled to make his first NFL start. He did not because the Cardinals opened the game in a 4-3 defense. A groin injury sidelined Schofield for a stretch against Dallas, but he returned to collect the first sack of his career. Schofield fell to Arizona in the fourth round of the draft while still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in January 2010.

What's next: The Cardinals finish their season with a game against San Francisco at Candlestick Park. Arizona could have a shot at knocking the 49ers from playoff contention, but only if the 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

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