Don’t mess with Texas? Cardinals do, send Cowboys home with surprising loss

Rondale Moore, center, celebrates a touchdown with Cardinals teammates Michael Wilson, left, and Hjalte Froholdt during the second quarter of a game against the Dallas Cowboys at State Farm Stadium. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE – The mood had shifted in the Arizona Cardinals facility Monday, less than 24 hours after securing an upset over the Dallas Cowboys for the team’s first win of the Jonathan Gannon era, and the team hopes it will help kickstart a resurgence in the desert.

The Cowboys entered the matchup undefeated as 12.5-point favorites at State Farm Stadium. However, the Cardinals punched first to take a first-quarter lead, after holding leads in each of their first two games before collapsing in the second half.

This time, Gannon’s squad didn’t give up a lead and closed out Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, 28-16.

“Going into half being up, where we have been up twice now, the attitude was a slightly different tone in the locker room,” Gannon said Monday. “What did we need to do to win the game in all three phases, each individually.”

Now with a win under their belt, Gannon and the Cardinals (1-2) have the results to prove their efforts each week can be rewarded despite the team’s projection to win 3.5 games before the season began.

Part of the preseason predictions was due to the team’s quarterback situation. Starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs, acquired after the start of preseason, has provided some stability in the starting role in the absence of Kyler Murray, who is nursing an ACL injury.

“His (Dobbs) improvement over the last few weeks and his success he has been able to accumulate for himself is because he operates at an extremely high level in all areas of his life,” rookie wide receiver Michael Wilson said. “In terms of his punctuality, he is very articulate. One of the first guys in and last to leave. He’s disciplined. Sometimes when you meet a person they give off this aura.”

Dobbs talked about improving each week as a main goal, and he has succeeded. His total passer rating of 98.1 is good for 10th in the league.

On Sunday, he finished 17-for-21 with 189 yards and one touchdown.

The Cardinals’ Kyzir White celebrates with coach Jonathan Gannon following a win against the Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Mike Christy/Getty Images)

“He can move and extend plays. He can make plays out of the pocket. Some are designed, some he tucks and runs,” Gannon said. “That’s an integral part today, in my opinion, of offenses that play is the quarterback’s legs. We got to keep helping him out with that.”

A chemistry-building win was much needed for a team that had previously won one home game in the past 15 games, and a young team with a young coach.

“Your buddies reach out, all that stuff,” Gannon said. “I guess the first one is a big deal, I found out. A lot of people support the Cardinals.”

The Cardinals have gotten off to fast starts in each of the first three games, taking a first-quarter lead in all three. Despite losing two of the three, the team will look to repeat the early success in Week 4 against the San Francisco 49ers.

“They are ready to play, I know that,” Gannon said. “That has differently helped us the first three weeks starting fast on all three phases. We have to continue to do that so we don’t get down. But we have to be able to play from down as well.”

Wilson was not the only rookie pitching into the victory effort. The Cardinals have a young squad with 11 rookies on the active roster, including three undraftees. Wilson was the star Sunday among the young core, helping the Cardinals go up two possessions in the fourth quarter with 69 of his 86 yards on a catch and run.

“I think it speaks mountains to the rookie class and the front office for bringing in like-minded individuals,” Wilson said. “Monti (GM Monti Ossenfort) and JG (Gannon) said they want to build a culture of high-character guys, who love football and do things the right way outside the building.”

Murray has been posting clips of his rehab on social media over the past week, sparking conversation and anticipation about his return. The star quarterback is eligible to come off the PUP list after Sunday’s matchup against the 49ers.

“I touch base with Kyler every day,” Gannon said. “He’s doing well. We know the timetable, but we have our own timetable.”

In the meantime, Gannon and the Cardinals turn their attention toward completing yet another upset over a potential NFC playoff team this Sunday.

“Now that we watched the tape and it’s behind us, now the focus is on San Francisco,” Wilson said.

Sports Digital Producer, Phoenix

Ryan McClure expects to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. McClure has interned with Sun Devil Athletics and Arizona Sports as a digital media intern.