Thu, 03 Dec 2020

Game Recap: Cowboys Fall on Monday Night, 38-10

Dallas Cowboys
20 Oct 2020, 19:24 GMT+10

Kurt Daniels

On Nov. 16, 1970, the Dallas Cowboys played their very first game on Monday Night Football, a showdown against the then-division rival St. Louis Cardinals. Dallas fell 38-0, still the ugliest loss in franchise history on a Monday night.

Some fifty years later, shades of that debacle came to mind as the Cowboys were defeated by the now Arizona Cardinals, 38-10, the 28-point deficit tied for the third worst in team annals for a Monday, and the biggest difference on the night since also losing by 28 in 2004 to the Philadelphia Eagles.

As has been the case all year, much of the Cowboys' damage was self-inflicted with four turnovers leading to 24 Arizona points. For the season, Dallas has allowed 84 points off turnovers, the most in the NFL. The team also has turned the ball over the most (15) and rank last in turnover differential (minus-12).

Andy Dalton's first game starting behind center for the injured Dak Prescott could be called a disappointment. He finished with 266 yards passing with two interceptions and one touchdown for a passer rating of just 65.8.

Not that he had much help. Ezekiel Elliott, who many thought would carry a heavier load in Prescott's absence, wound up with just 49 yards rushing with two costly fumbles. In total, the Cowboys finished with 344 yards of offense.

Which was far short of the 438 that Arizona racked up. Quarterback Kyler Murray didn't have to do much work in the passing game, earning only 188 yards through the air. But he had two touchdown passes and no interceptions while adding another 74 yards rushing.

The opponent's ground game again dominated the Dallas defense as the Cardinals ran for 261 yards in all, Kenyon Drake leading the way with 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns as well.

Despite all the eventual scoring, the early going was admittedly a bit of a snoozer as both offenses struggled out of the gate. The Cardinals punted on each of their first three possessions, the first time this season that the Cowboys have held the opposition scoreless in the opening quarter.

But Dalton and company punted on their first two series as well, going three-and-out on both tries. Even then, it could have been worse as the quarterback escaped a near interception and an almost-safety in the process.

Things, however, did get worse in the second quarter. Much worse.

On the Cowboys' next two possessions, Elliott coughed up the ball, the Cardinals recovering the prize on both occasions. That gave Elliott five fumbles in six games on the year, four of which were lost. His career high for fumbles in a season is six, set over 15 games in 2018.

Given the gifts, Arizona took advantage, turning both takeaways into touchdowns. The Cardinals started the first drive at their own 46-yard line, and after converting a fourth-and-1 at the Cowboys' 18-yard line, got in the end zone two plays later when Murray thew a shovel pass to receiver Christian Kirk who beat the defense to the pylon for the game's first score.

Two-and-a-half minutes later, the visitors were celebrating another touchdown. Having recovered Elliott's fumble at the Dallas 27-yard line, the Cardinals had no trouble crossing the goal line, running back Drake getting the honors with a final 1-yard run.

And when it rains, it pours. The Cowboys would not only have to climb out of yet another big hole, they would need to do so without Zack Martin, who was forced to leave the game due to injury early in the second quarter. That left an offensive line already without its starting left tackle, right tackle and center, now without the services of its All-Pro right guard.

With Tony Pollard inserted in at running back to start the Cowboys' next drive, they did manage to get into Cardinals territory, but stalled at the visitor's 45-yard line and were forced to punt. One play and 80 yards later, the score was 21-0, as Kirk was able to sprint past the Dallas secondary and haul in Murray's bomb for an easy touchdown.

The Cowboys had a chance to finally score a touchdown themselves just before the half when Dalton threw a 16-yard pass to an open Michael Gallup in the end zone. But the receiver dropped the ball, leaving Greg Zuerlein to kick the field goal for the team's first points.

For the third time in four home games, the Cowboys went into the halftime break trailing by at least 17 points. In the first two, they were able to mount comebacks, defeating the Falcons in Week 2 and closing to withing three points before losing to the Browns in Week 4.

There would be no such comeback in this one.

Especially after Dalton threw an interception on the team's opening possession of the third quarter. Though it appeared that the Cardinals interfered with receiver CeeDee Lamb on the play, no flag was thrown.

Arizona's ensuing nine-play, 79-yard drive saw Drake have runs of 20 and 22 yards, his two longest carries of the season. Murray, though, ran it in for the score after a pass interference penalty on the Cowboys in the end zone put the ball on the 1-yard line.

With that, there wasn't much left to do but play out the clock, the outcome already decided.

The Cowboys tried another field goal in the third quarter, but Zuerlein's 58-yard attempt floated wide right. And then they were able to reach the Arizona 16-yard line early in the fourth frame, only to have Dalton throw his second interception of the night, a diving catch from Cardinals safety Budda Baker.

That, of course, led to Murray connecting with wideout DeAndre Hopkins for a 60-yard completion and three more points, the Cardinals settling for a 26-yard field goal.

Dallas did manage to finally cross the goal line with just under three minutes remaining, the team going on an extended 18-play drive that finished with Dalton finding receiver Amari Cooper in the end zone for a 1-yard completion. Needless to say, it was far too little, too late.

Then perhaps adding insult to injury, with the Cardinals content to run out the clock, they instead saw Drake break through the line of scrimmage and dart 69 yards for the touchdown, the night mercifully coming to an end.

After that loss to the Cardinals a half-century ago, the Cowboys won their final five regular-season games and the first two rounds of the playoffs to reach their first Super Bowl. And despite falling to 2-4 on the season, the Cowboys are still amazingly in first place in the NFC East.

Thoughts of another run to the championship game, though, seem a long way off.

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