The Cardinals jump in celebration on teammate Monty Beisel after Beisel recovered the blocked punt of teammate Sean Morey (87) for the game-winning touchdown in a 30-24 overtime win over the Dallas Cowboys.
The whooping and hollering was audible through the walls in the bowels of University of Phoenix Stadium, while Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was having his postgame meeting with the media in the next room.
Whisenhunt's players were mostly giddy, knowing they had knocked off the Dallas Cowboys, 30-24, in overtime Sunday.
They were celebrating the way it was decided, on Sean Morey's blocked punt and Monty Beisel's subsequent recovery in the end zone. They were excited knowing they were headed into the bye with a 4-2 record and a two-game lead in the NFC West.
Mostly, they were enjoying the feeling that, handed a chance to win a crucial game, the Cardinals did – despite teetering on giving it away.
The Cowboys are "America's Team," and with a ton of national media and a national TV audience watching, "we wanted to shock the world," safety Antrel Rolle said.
It should have been easier than it turned out to be. The Cardinals held a 24-14 lead with 2:17 to play before allowing Cowboys running back Marion Barber to take a short dump pass from quarterback Tony Romo, get to the sideline and sprint 70 yards for a touchdown.
Down three, the Cowboys (4-2) got the ball back with 50 seconds left at their own 32-yard line. With time running short and Dallas going nowhere, Romo hit Jason Witten for a 30-yard gain to the Arizona 39. Dallas got five more yards when – while Romo was spiking the ball to stop the clock – the Cardinals were flagged for offsides because defensive end Travis LaBoy had gotten hurt on the Witten play and couldn't get off the field.
It set up a 52-yard field goal for Nick Folk, which he made. And it sent the game that should have been over into overtime.
"I'm so proud we didn't crumble after that," defensive end Antonio Smith said.
The Cowboys won the toss and got the ball, but on the first play of the extra stanza, linebacker Chike Okeafor broke free for a sack of Romo. Romo fumbled but luckily had the ball bounce right back to him.
With the ball sitting on the Dallas 15 on second-and-17, however, Romo could only manage two incomplete passes. Then Mat McBriar lined up for a punt, and Morey – the wide receiver who is on the roster only because of special teams – came through.
A return was set up, but Morey instead charged for the block, knowing the blocker assigned to him was different than the rest of the game. Beating his man easily, Morey laid out to smother the punt and McBriar.
Beisel jumped on the ball in the end zone, and the crowd of 64,389 – at least, the majority of which were pulling for the Cardinals – began celebrating along with the team.
"As a special teams guy, I don't get too many opportunities to influence the game," Morey said.
The play completed the special-team bookends for the Cardinals, who opened the game with J.J. Arrington's 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
That had been the Cardinals' only offense of the first half. Both teams struggled to do much with the ball early while the defenses shined.
Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett had one of the best games of his career, creating havoc all game long. Officially Dockett had just one sack – which should have led to an Arizona possession on a fumble deep in Dallas territory, except the officials prematurely blew the play dead – but he was active.
Another sack of Romo that looked like it was a fumble recovered for an Arizona touchdown – and a 14-0 lead – was wiped out after review because of the dreaded "tuck rule."
"I'll get a chance to look at it and see," Whisenhunt said. "If it's something I disagree with, we'll turn it in (to the league)."
Both offenses eventually found a rhythm, however. The Cards shut down Terrell Owens (four catches for 36 yards), but Romo (24-for-39, 321 yards, no interceptions) threw three touchdown passes and Barber ended up with 173 total yards rushing and receiving.
"I didn't think we were sluggish and slow," Romo said. "I think (the Cardinals) were good. At home and with the crowd behind them made for a difficult atmosphere."
Warner had just 59 yards passing at halftime with an interception. But he finished 22-of-30 for 236 yards and two touchdowns to continue his impressive season.
Steve Breaston and Larry Fitzgerald each had touchdown receptions, and Breaston had his second 100-yard performance in three games.
"Maybe we needed to settle down a little bit," Warner said. "That was a bigger game than a lot of us had had in a while."
The Cardinals had most everything go right Sunday. In the division, the Seahawks lost to fall to 1-4, the 49ers lost and are now 2-4. St. Louis did win, but at 1-4 the Cards have a room there.
The next game is on the road in Carolina, a difficult chore. But that comes in two weeks, after the Cards have a bye week and time to heal. They may even have wide receiver Anquan Boldin back after facial surgery.
That's then. For now, the players are off until Wednesday. And enjoying a win over the Cowboys.
"This," Whisenhunt said, "is what a playoff game feels like."
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 10/12/08.