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Lights Bright For Cardinals, Cowboys

Posted Sep 24, 2017

First game in a month at University of Phoenix Stadium might help sooth issues for Cards

The Cardinals finally will have their home opener after two straight on the road to start the regular season..

Larry Fitzgerald smiled, thinking about the Cardinals’ home opener against the Cowboys.

“You know it’ll be electrifying,” the wide receiver said. “Monday Night Football against America’s Team. What more can you ask for?”

Actually, the Cards may have a laundry list of things they want right now. But maybe they can find some of them in their first game at University of Phoenix Stadium in more than a month, with a national television audience waiting to see which of these 1-1 teams wants to take a step forward in the NFC.

“It’s when stars shine the brightest,” Fitzgerald said. “We haven’t played up to our standards the first two weeks. It’s a great opportunity against a really good team to do that.”

Just being home makes a difference. The Cardinals last played in their stadium Aug. 19, their third preseason game. They spent a long five-plus weeks in the building for training camp, but then came four straight road games, including the final two of the preseason.

Three of those trips were to the Eastern time zone, and coach Bruce Arians said his team was weary by the time they returned from last week’s 16-13 overtime win in Indianapolis.

Now, “I would say we are fresh,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said, a team invigorated both by the chance to stay home for a game and after getting a win.

The Cowboys were blown up last week in Denver, 42-17. Running back Ezekiel Elliott, the engine that makes their offense go, was held to eight yards rushing on nine attempts. The week was then dominated of talk about Elliott’s lack of effort to make a tackle after Dak Prescott’s late-game interception.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he made “clear what the expectations are” with Elliott as Dallas tries to get back to what made them one of the favorites in the NFC.

“We’ve got to take our medicine and understand that every week in this league, it’s tough,” Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “And we’ve got another tough challenge in Arizona.”

The Cowboys have injuries in the secondary, which in theory could help the Cardinals’ offense. But the Cardinals remain a work-in-progress themselves. Left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) will miss another game, and so too could left guard Mike Iupati. Wide receiver John Brown (quad) will sit out again, and now wide receiver J.J. Nelson is battling a hamstring injury.

The Cards need quarterback Carson Palmer to be more careful with the ball (four interceptions in two games) and the offensive line needs to play better. Chris Johnson figures to take center stage as the top running back in place of the injured David Johnson.

“We were a little out of sync early (in the first two games),” center A.Q. Shipley said. “No question about that. The more work we get, we will figure it out. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t almost with training camp. You can do a bunch of reps and guys get injured, or you limit reps. We’re working on it.”

The Cardinals did close in Indianapolis fairly well, scoring 10 points in the final eight minutes to tie the game and getting in position to kick a game-winning field goal at the end before Phil Dawson missed. Instead, Mathieu got an interception to start overtime, and Dawson redeemed himself.

“Confidence is big, but as far as picking up where you left off, that’s what you want to do, but momentum changes from the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, from week to week,” Palmer said. “We’d love to keep it going, but we’re not counting on that. We’ve just got to go out and execute.”

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