Cardinal Sins

On a promotional day when the Dallas Cowboys were giving away hotdogs, soft drinks and an Emmitt Smith bobble-head doll, someone should have been foresighted enough to include a priest. There were two critically wounded NFC East offenses that should have heard their last rights on the Texas Stadium field Sunday.

Clint Stoerner, the highly anticipated quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys made his first start. Fans looking for any sign of life from under center this season have now resorted to the player from Arkansas. His 67 net yards passing may send them flocking to the support of Tim Seder, the emergency quarterback for this day.

Like Quincy Carter and Anthony Wright who both preceded Stoerner as the starter in 2001, Clint sprayed the ball and missed opportunities.

A terribly under thrown pass on an out in the first quarter could have spelled six quick points for the Cardinals if Galloway hadn't played defense. Again with the third quarterback on the roster we see passes sailing over the head of Ismail. But with Stoerner, we also see passes deflected by the defensive line.

Perhaps the most influential moments of the Dallas offensive production came in the second and third quarters.

Dallas had a very nice 8 minute drive in the second, running the ball well with both Emmitt and Hambrick. Emmitt had 44 yards on the ground in the drive and Hambrick added another 12.

But as with most drives this year when entering the red zone, it was stalled with a stuffed run on first down and an incomplete pass on second. Dallas isn't skilled enough in the quarterback position to overcome third and 14. Dallas took three points to tie the game on a field goal by Tim Seder.

In the third Stoerner lofted a pass to Galloway that was broken up on the 5-yard line by the Cardinals. But a pass interference call spotted the ball deep in Arizona territory. Dallas eventually scored on a quarterback draw from Stoerner to move the score to 10-3 Dallas.

But the game was sealed by several great defensive plays. Micah Knorr dropped a punt inside the Cardinals 5 yard line in the third. Jason Bell, an excellent special teams player downed the ball on the Arizona 1 yard line.

After Dallas stuffed Pittman for no gain and Plummer threw an incompletion, Dallas put on an in-your-face rush causing Jake Plummer to throw from the back of the endzone. Dexter Coakley intercepted the pass and danced into the endzone for a touchdown.

The only real potential threat to the Dallas lead came in the fourth when Clint threw an ill-advised ball to Galloway. He saw the speedy receiver pass his man and tossed a deep pass to the endzone. But Cardinal safety Adrian Wilson stayed at home and intercepted the pass. His run back started the Arizona offense on their own 40-yard line. Just the type of scenario that has fostered the Montana comments about Plummer.

But a good effort by the bend-don't-break defense of Mike Zimmer stopped the Cardinals on a Hail Mary type pass from the Dallas 40 yard line.

Stoerner's two fumbles, losing one and one interception didn't harm the Cowboys efforts. His workman-like game produced results against the #30 defense in the league. His over-all play was enough to win today, but against tougher competition the successful outcome is doubtful.

The boos from fans when several drives stalled can only prompt the Dallas brain trust to work diligently in getting Ryan Leaf up to speed. The team needs a quarterback with the skills to deliver the football with zip. Leaf is the only player on the squad with that type of velocity. If he can master enough of the offense by next Sunday, he should get the starting nod over the inexperienced Stoerner.

Dallas won because they seemed to have wanted the game more. They ran with authority and played defense with passion.

But in the end the transgressions of the Cardinals were their undoing and a second mark in the win column for Dallas. A win streak is alive and well until they meet an angry Giant team that has lost their last three.

Then maybe Dallas should send up some prayers in hopes of a second coming of a Cardinal-like game from the New York squad.

Miracles do happen.

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