Cowboys @ Cardinals: A Christmas Day Present

The Cardinals have been a disaster now that Kurt Warner has retired.

This week, the Dallas Cowboys play a game a day earlier than usual. And they are playing not on just any old day, but one of the biggest days of the year. They travel to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals on Christmas Day. After you've opened your presents from under the tree, and feasted out on some amazing Christmas delicacies, you get one more gift. You get to watch the Cowboys play some football.

Hopefully, the Cowboys game will be a gift and not a lump of coal. While the Cowboys record is only one game better than the Cardinals, they are playing much better football at the moment. This is a game the Cowboys should win, and it's a game Jason Garrett needs to win. Our own Paul Alexander detailed the need for Garrett to grab a victory over the Cardinals. Opinion has shifted, and most of the Cowboys-watching public now believes that Jason Garrett is in the home-stretch of securing the head coaching gig for Dallas in 2011 and beyond. Dallas is 4-2 under Garrett, they've been competitive in every game they've played since Garrett took over, their only two losses coming by three points each, and those were to good football teams (Saints, Eagles). O.C.C has a little more on the Cowboys turnaround under Garrett here.

But, all that good feeling and holiday cheer Garrett has brought about could be undone with a loss to the lowly Cardinals. Last week, the Cardinals traveled to Charlotte and played the then 1-12 Carolina Panthers, and lost 19-12. The Cardinals have lost their identity and their punch with the retirement of Kurt Warner. After a succession of quarterback candidates have played this year, they've handed the reins to rookie John Skelton. Derek Anderson is still suffering from symptoms of a concussion, but even if cleared to play the Cards are likely to stick with Skelton.

Arizona started the season by winning three of their first five games. Since that time, they've won just once in their last nine games, that was a shellacking of the Denver Broncos a couple of weeks ago. The Cardinals team stats are a disaster. They rank 31st in passing offense and 30th in rushing offense. It doesn't get much better on defense where they rank 23rd in stopping the pass and 30th in stopping the run. They still have Larry Fitzgerald, but he is their lone big threat on offense. The running game is split between Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, with neither having a particularly good year.

In short, this is a struggling football team that seems to be getting worse. Losing to the Panthers is hard to do this year, but they managed it last week. The NFL schedule Gods have presented the Cowboys with a nice Christmas present. As long as the Cardinals don't turn into the Grinch, we should have a very merry Christmas.

DALLAS COWBOYS (5-9) AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-10)

SERIES

COWBOYS

CARDINALS

SERIES LEADER

55-28-1

 

STREAKS

5 of past 8

 

COACHES VS. OPP.

Garrett: 0-0

Whisenhunt: 1-0

LAST WEEK

W 33-30 vs. Redskins

L 19-12 at Panthers

LAST GAME

10/12/08: Cowboys 24 at Cardinals 30 (OT).  In OT, Arizona WR Sean Morey blocks punt that is returned for TD by LB Monty Beisel for decisive score in Cardinals’ win. 

LAST GAME AT SITE

10/12/08

BROADCAST

NFLN (5:30 MST): Bob Papa, Matt Millen, Joe Theismann, Alex Flanagan (Field reporter).  Westwood One Radio: Howard David, Michael Irvin, Kevin Kiley (Field reporter).  SIRIUS: 124 (WW1), 123 (Dal.), 125 (Ari).  XM: 124 (WW1), 102 (Dal.), 103 (Ari.).

STATS

PASSING

Kitna: 197-298-2,250-15-10-91.4

Skelton (R): 35-76-387-0-1-56.2

RUSHING

Jones: 158-642-4.1-1

Hightower: 135-683-5.1-5

RECEIVING

Witten (TE): 82 (T2C)-911-11.1-7

Fitzgerald: 78-986-12.6-5

OFFENSE

369.6

268.5

TAKE/GIVE

0

-6

DEFENSE

365.2

373.8

SACKS

Ware: 11.5 (3C)

Campbell, Porter: 5

INTs

Sensabaugh: 4

Rhodes: 4

PUNTING

McBriar: 47.9 (1C)

Graham: 43.4

KICKING

Buehler: 104 (38/39 PAT; 22/29 FG)

Feely: 97 (25/25 PAT; 22/24 FG)

NOTES

COWBOYS:  QB JON KITNA has completed 128 of 186 (68.8 pct.) for 1,501 yards with 11 TDs vs. 4 INTs for 103.8 rating in past 6.  Has 4 300-yard games in 2010, tied for his most in season…Incl. playoffs, RB FELIX JONES has 10 career TDs (8 rush, 1 rec., 1 KR) & averages 45.1 yards per TD (451 yards).  In 3 meetings, RB MARION BARBER has 388 scrimmage yards (129.3 per game) & 4 TDs.  In last game vs. Arz., had career-high 11 catches & 128 yards with TD.  RB TASHARD CHOICE has rush TD in 3 of past 4…TE JASON WITTEN had 10 catches for 140 yards & TD last week.  Became fastest TE to 600 catches (125 games) & 4th TE to reach 600.  Leads NFL TEs with 82 catches & 911 yards.  WR MILES AUSTIN had TD catch in last meeting.  Needs 136 rec. yards for 2nd consecutive 1,000-yard season…LB DE MARCUS WARE had 2 sacks last week & recorded 5th consecutive 10-sack season.  Aims for 3rd in row vs. Arz. with sack.  In 7 Sat. games (incl. playoffs), has 10.5 sacks, 9 FFs & 41-yard INT-TD

CARDINALS:  Rookie QB JOHN SKELTON had  career-high 196 yards last week…RB TIM HIGHTOWER needs 189 scrimmage yards for 2nd consecutive 1,000-yard season…WR LARRY FITZGERALD had 9 catches for 125 yards last week & became youngest (27 years, 110 days) to reach 600 receptions (601) & 2nd youngest to 8,000 rec. yards (8,053).  Needs 14 yards for 4th consecutive 1,000-yard season.  In 4 Sat. games (incl. playoffs), has 25 catches for 437 yards (109.3 per game) & 3 TDs.  Since start of 2008, has 39 rec. TDs, most in NFL (incl. playoffs).  WR STEVE BREASTON had 8 catches for 102 yards & TD in last meeting.  Had FR-TD last week & team set single-season franchise record with 10 return TDs…Since 2007, DT DARNELL DOCKETT has 26 sacks, most by DT (incl. playoffs).  Had sack in last meeting.  In 10/20/02 meeting, S ADRIAN WILSON had career-high 3 INTs.  S KERRY RHODES had INT in only meeting (11/22/07 with NYJ).

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