5 Keys to Pounding the Cardinals

The Dallas Cowboys enter Sunday's game at Arizona with a 3-3 record, but the past two games played between these two teams in Tempe has seen America's Team leave with a loss. Here are our 5 keys to a big Dallas win Sunday afternoon in the desert.

Rise Above the Cards
When you break down the Arizona Cardinals this year, it's easy to see that this team has won because of their play on special teams and defense. With the Cowboys' offense ranking near the bottom of the NFL in almost every major category, it will extremely important for Dallas to play better than the Cardinals in both areas.

"They play hard for 60 minutes," said Dave Campo. "They have a very physical front four. Their linebackers run well and their secondary is playing better then people would have imagined going into the season. A lot of it is chemistry on defense, probably more so then on offense."

Speaking of the Cardinals front four, the unit as a whole was regarded as the team's weakest links coming into the season, but judging by their performance through the first 5 games of the year, you sure wouldn't know it. The Cardinals have held their last two opponents to under 75 yards rushing, their first such back-to-back performances since 1995.

Break the Streak
Simply put, the Cowboys have to get out of this streak of winning one, losing one, winning one, losing one. It seems like every week represents a new section of the 2002 regular season roller coaster.

"I think it's important to win games in a row," Campo told the Dallas Morning News earlier this week. "I'm not real pleased with 8-8, so we do have to start to string some things together."

For a moment, just think about the overall direction of this franchise if the Cowboys were able to win 4 out of their first 7 games. Even with all the offensive struggles, having at worst a 4-4 record entering the second half of the year gives all Cowboys fans a reason to be optimistic.

Win the Close Ones
In just under 40 games as the Cowboys' head coach, Dave Campo has seen 21 games that have been decided by seven points or less. The Cowboys are 2-1 in those games this season after 6 out of 18 games in Campo's first two seasons.

Quincy Carter's 4th quarter miracles were a pleasant surprise last week, and perhaps that win over a very underrated Carolina Panther ball club will help establish some momentum headed into Tempe.

As stated above, the Cardinals are playing excellent defense right now, which once again means this game will likely come down to a play or two late in the 4th quarter. Can the Cowboys pull out another one? It won't be as easy on the road.

Billy Cundiff, the Cowboys' rookie placekicker, has had only one field goal attempt in the last two games. As always, it will be important for Cundiff to convert his field goal opportunities into points this week. Remember, 17 to 20 points likely wins this football game.

Stay the Course Quincy
Quincy Carter is starting to come into his own as an NFL quarterback. Does that mean he's setting the world on fire? No, but it does mean he's doing enough to keep this team competitive, which is a big step in the right direction.

Carter completed 15-of-32 passes for 225 yards for two touchdowns and an interception last week against Carolina, but he really didn't do too much until late in the 4th quarter.

His two touchdown passes, one of over 70 yards to Joey Galloway, and the other of over 25 yards to rookie Antonio Bryant on 4th and 14, could be just the spark this offense needs to get on track.

"Two out of the last three weeks, Quincy Carter has driven us into field goal and touchdown range to win two ballgames," said Campo. "I've been very pleased with those results."

Unfortunately for Carter and the rest of the offense, the line is still struggling with injuries. Larry Allen and Andre Gurode are still questionable headed into Arizona, and Kelvin Garmon was traded to the San Diego Chargers for a conditional draft pick earlier this week.

Interestingly enough, the only player who has started all six games at the same position is left tackle Flozell Adams. If Gurode can't go at center, Campo will likely turn to Tyson Walter.

"He's a guy that came into the game this past week. We are still evaluating that with the combination of he and Matt Lehr. Matt is a second-year guy and has a pretty good chance of starting at left guard. We could be really young at that group," said Campo.

Somebody's got to block the Cardinals Sunday, the question is who?

Defense, Defense, Defense
The Cowboys defense, for the most part, has lived up to it's preseason billing, but this week they'll face one of the NFL's best comeback artists in QB Jake Plummer.

Plummer had led his team from behind entering the 4th quarter on three separate occasions this year and he has now done it almost 20 times in his short NFL career. This week, he'll also have the benefit of having a healthy David Boston and Thomas Jones, as the Cardinals had the chance to get healthy after a bye.

"At this point in the season, we have to rely on the defense making some plays. I think we're going to get better offensively as we go. But we just aren't there yet," said Campo.

Getting pressure on Plummer will obviously be crucial, but stopping Thomas Jones out of the backfield will also go a long way in picking up a win Sunday. The tag-team combination of Greg Ellis and La'Roi Glover need to add onto to their collective sack total of 9 if the Cowboys are going to have a chance.

Other Notes
RT Larry Allen was sidelined after starting a game for the third straight week because of a sprained left hamstring. Allen didn't make it out of the first quarter against the Giants after starting at left guard as a replacement for the departed/traded Kelvin Garmon.

Allen might not start this week however as the Cowboys plan on sticking to their guns and using him as a part time player against the Cardinals. He likely won't rest the ankle completely until the bye week. Look for him to see anywhere from 20-25 plays Sunday afternoon.

Arizona WR David Boston (ankle) is expected to be back nearly full strength Sunday, which doesn't bode well for a banged up Dallas secondary. Boston had been hobbled the past three games before the bye and did not practice Monday.

Dallas enters the game as a 3.5-point underdog, even though the team is 6-4 in past games 10 games at Arizona since 1992.

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