Andy Dalton, Cowboys Routed by Cardinals in 1st Game Since Dak Prescott Injury

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2020

Arizona Cardinals' Kyler Murray celebrates running the ball for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

The Arizona Cardinals are starting to look like playoff contenders.

Arizona, which hasn't made the postseason since the 2015 campaign, improved to 4-2 with a 38-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday at AT&T Stadium. Kyler Murray, Christian Kirk and Kenyan Drake led the way for the Cardinals and helped close the gap on the 5-0 Seattle Seahawks in a loaded NFC West that doesn't feature a single team below .500.

As for Dallas, the offense was abysmal in the team's first full game without the injured Dak Prescott since it drafted him in 2016.

The Cowboys fell to 2-4 but are still in first place over the 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles in the struggling NFC East.


Notable Player Stats

  • Kyler Murray, QB, ARI: 9-of-24 for 188 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs; 10 carries for 74 yards, 1 TD
  • Kenyan Drake, RB, ARI: 20 carries for 164 yards, 2 TDs
  • Christian Kirk, WR, ARI: 2 catches for 86 yards, 2 TDs
  • Andy Dalton, QB, DAL: 34-of-54 for 266 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
  • Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL: 12 carries for 49 yards; 8 catches for 31 yards
  • Amari Cooper, WR, DAL: 7 catches for 79 yards, 1 TD


Dallas Offense Goes Missing Without Dak

The biggest storyline of the game for either side was how the Cowboys would fare without their franchise quarterback.

Fortunately for them, Andy Dalton is not an average backup signal-caller. He was a three-time Pro Bowler who led the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first five years in the league. He also has one of the best running backs in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott to force defenders into the box and open up passing lanes for Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.

So much for that.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Zeke already has 2 fumbles in the first half 😬 https://t.co/Vote3QWCFK

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Baker forces a Zeke fumble 👀 His third of the season (via @NFL) https://t.co/zHFuUUCYu3

Ramon Foster @RamonFoster

Yall see why we didn’t stress over Andy when he was in Cincy 👀😈🤣.

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Budda Baker showing out tonight 💨 7 tackles 1 sack 1 INT (via @NFL) https://t.co/7yWzahQCRd

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Gallup had an easy 6 😬 https://t.co/0eKopJ7yvo

In just the first half alone, Gallup dropped a touchdown pass, guard Zack Martin left with an injury—weakening an already banged-up offensive line—and Elliott shockingly lost two fumbles.

Perhaps he was putting too much pressure on himself without Prescott, but Zeke was supposed to be the one who carried the offense without No. 4 on the field. Instead, his early miscues helped set the tone for the entire game.

Halftime did nothing to change the Cowboys' fortunes as Dalton threw an interception to Dre Kirkpatrick on a play that should have been pass interference on their first possession after intermission before Greg Zuerlein missed a field goal on their second possession.

While Dalton was far from effective, it was hard to fault him fully given Elliott's fumbles, the no-call on his first pick and Gallup's dropped touchdown. Still, he did his part to shoulder some of the blame with a late interception to Budda Baker, who was around the football all game.

The only silver lining from the Cowboys' perspective is the reality it may only take a handful of additional victories to win the NFC East, but Monday's effort did not build confidence in their ability to do just that without Prescott.


Kyler Murray, Cardinals Torch Dallas Defense

No Prescott was not the only concern for the Cowboys with this matchup.

Entering play, Dallas was dead last in the league in points allowed per game (36.0) with a defense that has essentially been nonexistent throughout the season. That was trouble with the electrifying Murray running and targeting the DeAndre Hopkins-Larry Fitzgerald combination.

It took Arizona a quarter to get rolling offensively, but Murray found Kirk with a flip pass for the game's first touchdown before he set up a Drake score by darting through the Cowboys linebackers as a runner.


Kyler to Kirk for the six-yard TD! @AZCardinals strike first. 📺: #AZvsDAL on ESPN 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/vHTeaUAgV3 https://t.co/Eqzh991Q7d

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MURRAY 80-YD DEEP BALL TO KIRK 🎯 (via @NFL) https://t.co/ETjfhzrLs4

His explosiveness whenever he got the edge or eluded pass-rushers forced the second and third levels of the defense to creep toward the line of scrimmage and pause for an extra second whenever he dropped back, which opened the door for Kirk to blow past the secondary for an 80-yard touchdown.

When Murray is making throws like that, he creates a pick-your-poison scenario for even the best defenses.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

This Kyler Murray-Christian Kirk TD is even better from this angle 😱 (via @AZCardinals) https://t.co/FUUD2eL2ov

Next Gen Stats @NextGenStats

Christian Kirk reached 21.21 MPH on his 80-yard TD reception from Kyler Murray, the fastest speed reached by a Cardinals player this season. Kirk reached 21.15 MPH on his 6-yard TD reception earlier in the 2nd quarter (2nd-fastest this season). #ARIvsDAL | Powered by @awscloud https://t.co/IkJIUEQb9U

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Cowboys defense https://t.co/rcR0GrRbrA

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Cowboys defense trying to guard Kyler @brgridiron https://t.co/qvVLgau8wh


Kyler Keeper. @K1 📺: #AZvsDAL on ESPN 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/vHTeaUAgV3 https://t.co/hDhmfjhrT8

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Murray passed it to himself and hit the gas. Electric ⚡️ (via @thecheckdown) https://t.co/gPcSXCPWE4

Dallas is far from that and fell even further behind when Murray scored on a keeper in the third quarter. Throw in Drake running hard between the tackles and controlling the clock along with his quarterback, and there was no doubt the Cardinals were going to hang on following their red-hot start.

Murray won't be lucky enough to play the Cowboys defense every week, but he continues to show he is the type of dual-threat playmaker who can lead the Cardinals back to the playoffs.


What's Next? 

Both teams face divisional foes in Week 7 when Dallas is at the Washington Football Team and Arizona hosts the Seahawks.