Cowboys Lose Second Consecutive Game, Cardinals Best Team in NFL?
Carson Palmer settled down nicely after an early mistake gave Dallas a lead. Brandon Weeden never did get comfortable filling in for Tony Romo.
Palmer stayed perfect as the starter for Arizona this season, throwing for three touchdowns, while Weeden couldn't get the Cowboys into the end zone until the game was out of reach in the Cardinals' 28-17 victory Sunday.
The Cardinals (7-1), who have sole possession of the best record in the NFC this late in the season for the first time since 1974, won their fourth straight, including back-to-back wins over the top two teams in the NFC East.
"This is a very good team," said Palmer, 5-0 this season after missing two games with a shoulder injury. "We feel like we can play with anybody, and that's important because we feel like we are improving."
Romo was out with his third back injury in 18 months, and backup Weeden threw two interceptions as the Cowboys (6-3) dropped their second straight. He finished 18 of 33 for 183 yards with a late score.
"You can't turn the ball over, and that is on me," Weeden said.
The Dallas running game wasn't the same without Romo.
NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray's record streak of eight straight 100-yard games to start the season ended against a defense that didn't allow a back over the century mark for the 18th consecutive time.
Murray, who rushed for 79 yards on 19 carries, was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the Arizona 34 with the Cardinals leading 14-10 in the fourth quarter. Palmer took the Cardinals the other way for the last of his three scoring tosses, a 1-yarder to Andre Ellington.
"That was the turning point in the game," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "It wasn't a time to sit back. We had to continue to attack and we got ourselves some good, favorable plays and Carson made some good decisions."
Palmer put his team in a 7-0 hole when undrafted Dallas rookie Tyler Patmon ducked under a route, made an over-the-head catch and ran untouched down the Arizona sideline, with some nice blocking from defensive end Anthony Spencer.
But that was his only mistake. He finished 22 of 34 for 249 yards with touchdowns of 7 yards to John Carlson and 11 to Jaron Brown before the short one to Ellington. All three TDs came on third down, with the Cardinals converting 9 of 15 in that situation.
Ellington outgained Murray on the ground with 95 yards and added another 39 receiving.
"You know we always want to outrush the opponent," Ellington said. "It's a credit to our defense for shutting him down and giving me a chance to get out there on the field and get more carries and get more yards."
Romo was relegated to headset-wearing sideline duty because of fractures of two small bones in the back. The injury is unrelated to a herniated disk sustained last year and to offseason surgery to remove a cyst earlier in 2013.
Coach Jason Garrett said Romo would make the long trip to London for next weekend's game against Jacksonville even though staying home would essentially give the 34-year-old a month between games because of a bye the following week.
"We're optimistic," Garrett said. "People with similar injuries have been on a little bit of a similar timetable where they missed the first game and they were getting close to being able to play in that second game."
Weeden, who left Cleveland when the Browns gave up on him just two seasons after drafting him in the first round, was off-target and out of sync with his receivers most of the game.
His first interception, by Tyrann Mathieu, came with Dallas in scoring range early in the second half. The second wiped out any hope of a comeback by the Cowboys when Antonio Cromartie stepped in front of Terrance Williams after the Cardinals had gone up 21-10 in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Larry Fitzgerald extended the longest active streak with at least one catch to 157 games. He had a 31-yarder on third down on Arizona's first scoring drive while trailing 10-0 and led the Cardinals with five catches for 70 yards. ... The Cardinals beat the Cowboys for the fourth straight time, and this was the first that wasn't on the final play. Two of the previous three victories were in overtime. .. Cowboys LB Rolando McClain and DT Tyrone Crawford left the game in the fourth quarter with knee injuries.
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