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The Cowboys Come To Town

Fantastic finishes have highlighted recent matchups

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Sean Morey blocks a Mat McBriar punt in overtime in 2008, leading to the game-winning touchdown for the Cards against the Cowboys.


It's impossible to know if Sunday's game will come down to something memorable, like a blocked punt in overtime, or a game-winning field goal drive sparked by an improbable fourth-and-15 conversion for a first down.

That's how the Cardinals' last two games against the Dallas Cowboys – both at University of Phoenix Stadium, just like this one – finished up.

The Cards don't need a highlight to end the game. Just as long as they end up with the same result, which would be yet another win against the favored former NFC East rival.

"Hell, it's America's Team," Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "I don't care what their record is, what our record is, I'll be ready for that."

The Cowboys (7-4) are in control of their division. The Cardinals (4-7) are just trying to put together all their pieces. Kevin Kolb should start at quarterback for the first time since the trip to Baltimore Oct. 30, when toe and foot injuries sent him to the sidelines. The offense should have available its full complement of tight ends available now that both Todd Heap and Rob Housler have overcome their injuries.

Running back Beanie Wells has fought through knee issues and is coming of the best game in franchise history, a 228-yard rushing effort that the Cards hope signifies something important about their run game. The defense is playing its best football of the season.

"We understand how good Arizona is," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "They've won three of four. Never do we go into Arizona and not have a tough game."

That is true, at least recently. The game in 2008 was a watershed moment in a lot of ways for the Cards that season. They outplayed Dallas much of the day (without injured wide receiver Anquan Boldin), let the Cowboys come back to tie it, and then came up with a huge defensive stand in overtime. Sean Morey then blocked a punt that was recovered by Monty Beisel in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown in a 30-24 win.

Last year, with little on the line on Christmas night, the Cards built an early lead and frittered it away again. But rookie quarterback John Skelton completed a 26-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald on that fourth down play, and eventually guided the Cards into field-goal range as Jay Feely converted for a 27-26 win.

The energy in the building when the Cowboys come to play is always a little different, and it's evident on the field as well – Dockett, for instance, always has his engine revved up for a game like this.

"There is a lot of notoriety that comes with that team, so normally when you know there are going to be a lot of people watching or caring about the game, it raises the intensity," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "That's just human nature."

Dallas has a rookie running back (DeMarco Murray) who has stormed on the scene, and Romo has played well over the past month. The Cowboys are likely still going to be without Pro Bowl wide receiver Miles Austin, who is battling a hamstring injury, but Romo can still throw it to Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten, wide receiver Dez Bryant and wide receiver Laurent Robinson, who has resuscitated his career.

Defensively, the Cardinals must deal with a very good pass rush led by DeMarcus Ware, who leads the NFL with 14 sacks.

At least the Cardinals don't have to climb on a plane to play. After spending four of the past five weeks on the road, the Cards flip the script for the rest of the season, playing four of their final five at home.

"We've been on the road here it seems for a couple of months almost," Kolb said. "Hopefully we will deliver some wins for the home crowd."

The first chance comes against the Cowboys, against whom memories happen.

"It's fun playing against them," Fitzgerald said. "They are the Cowboys. They are America's team. You know it will be on the big stage."

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