Defensive end Bertrand Berry exults after a sack, which was part of the reason the Cardinals came up with a big 30-24 win over the Cowboys Sunday.
Larry Fitzgerald wanted to leave the field and he couldn't.
The Cardinals' wide receiver is always the first man to sprint to the locker room after games, win or lose. But as he edged over Sunday, the Cowboys were setting up for a game-tying field goal, and if it was good, Fitzgerald had more football to play.
"We've worked too hard for this …" Fitzgerald said, trailing off, not wanting to think of the consequences of a loss.
Dallas tied the game a little while later, after the officials took what seemed
forever to figure out where the ball should be place. Overtime gave the Cowboys the ball first. The vibe, after the Cards blew a 10-point lead, was bleak. Some onlookers made comparisons to the Cards' infamous Monday Night Meltdown against the Bears in 2006.
Instead, jubilation came five plays later. Fitzgerald ran off the field, never needing to play another down.
"That's the NFL. It's a fine line," said linebacker Monty Beisel after scoring the game-winning touchdown in the 30-24 win. Noting his former team, New England, could find ways to win, "That is something we need to learn to do.
"In the past, we've been in that spot to win the game and we just don't win it."
The afterglow of Sunday's win will last a little longer than normal for the Cardinals, both because of the magnitude of the opponent -- "I never liked Dallas since I was 2 years old," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "It's something personal." -- and because the looming bye gives the Cards some time to breath before worrying about their next game Oct. 26 at Carolina.
The time might be valuable to properly place what the win might mean.
Both coach Ken Whisenhunt and his players seemed to shy away from the idea the Cowboys' victory was a statement.
"I don't know if it's a statement game, but it certainly was a very good win for our team," Whisenhunt said.
"You could say," added punt-blocking hero Sean Morey, "we have graduated."
To what, exactly?
With the next game in Carolina, beating a good Panthers' team may even say more about this current Arizona squad than beating the Cowboys. Dallas is good, yes, but the Cards have already shown (Pittsburgh, Seattle, Cleveland last season, Buffalo this season) they can beat good teams at home.
(And speaking of home, it was a big issue coming into this game – the makeup of the crowd and how many Cowboys fans would show. There were plenty of Cowboys' faithful, but it seemed an easy majority of the 64,389 were pulling for the Cardinals. Being down on the field for the last six minutes, I heard Cowboys' fans enjoy Marion Barber's touchdown and Nick Folk's final field goal, but the buzz trying to throw the Cowboys' offense off in overtime with the Cards on defense was deafening. The explosion of joy when Beisel scored his TD was moreso.)
There were things the Cards had to overcome. Arizona was charged with 12 penalties for 70 yards, appalling totals only less painful because the Cowboys were nailed for 12 for 93.
The Cards overcame a negative in the turnover column, three to one (or three to two, if you decide the blocked punt should count).
They overcame an irritating (if proper) use of the infamous "tuck rule" that cost Dockett a sack and Antonio Smith a touchdown and overcame a bad blown call by the refs on another Dockett sack that should have been a Cards' fumble recovery deep in Dallas territory.
Dockett even said Smith told him during the game, "This is America's team, you ain't gonna get no calls. We're going to have to earn it."
No one can argue the Cards different, especially after they didn't collapse in overtime after letting the Cowboys back in.
Brushing aside the late defensive issues, safety Adrian Wilson said "you're going to have ebb and flow every game."
And an ebb and flow to a season. Ten games remain for a franchise which hasn't had a two-game lead in its division this late since moving to Arizona. Two weeks remain before the Cards play again, allowing players to heal and psyches to refocus.
They want to stay on the right side of the NFL's fine line.
"There's no telling," said quarterback Kurt Warner, "what this could do for our football team."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 10/12/08.
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