The Cowboys (5-4) showed no signs of a hangover from their heartbreaking loss to Washington the previous week and turned two interceptions by Matt Leinart into second-half touchdowns, sending the Cardinals (1-8) to their eighth straight loss.
“We weren’t perfect,” Dallas coach Bill Parcells said, “but I thought it was a pretty good performance considering the disappointment we had last week.”
Romo was 20-of-29 with no interceptions and wasn’t sacked in Dallas’ third consecutive road game. All three of his starts have come on the road. Next up is his home debut against Peyton Manning and the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts next Sunday.
“I’m never looking forward to a shootout,” Romo said. “I’d rather have us hold them to about three points, but it will be fun this week. This is why you play the game.”
Crayton caught five passes for a career-best 104 yards, including a 34-yarder for the Cowboys’ first score. He came away unimpressed with Arizona’s pass defense.
“We’re used to playing against a lot better secondary in practice,” Crayton said. “When you come against a secondary like we did today, we had to take advantage of it.”
As bad as Arizona has been over the years, its losing streak is its longest since dropping the final eight under Joe Bugel in 1991. The Cardinals, in their third season under coach Dennis Green, haven’t started a season 1-8 since 1978, when they were in St. Louis and coached by Bud Wilkinson.
“I mean, we’re 1-8. I’m just running out of things to say in terms of what we need to do,” said Larry Fitzgerald, who returned from a three-week absence but aggravated a hamstring injury late in the game. “It’s just so frustrating that we’re not able to move the ball down the field with all the talent we have.”
Owens, who vowed to make amends after dropping a sure TD against the Redskins, dropped the first pass thrown to him Sunday, too. But it was a nice day after that. Owens caught five for 96 yards, including the 51-yarder down the sidelines—his longest catch since coming to Dallas—to put the Cowboys up 20-3 with 5:15 left in the third quarter.
“I didn’t start typically like I want to, but we ended up like we wanted to,” Owens said. “… I just wanted to try to make the play. With everybody harping on my drops, I was just trying to do some things once I got my hands on the ball.”
Whatever celebration Owens did went unnoticed.
“You just didn’t see it,” he said.
Moments later, Leinart’s pass bounced off the hands of intended receiver Anquan Boldin and was picked off by Patrick Watkins, who returned it 24 yards to the Arizona 39. That led to Marion Barber’s 5-yard touchdown run that gave Dallas a 27-3 lead 43 seconds into the final quarter.
Fitzgerald had catches of 15 and 38 yards as Arizona drove 78 yards in seven plays to cut it to 27-10 on Leinart’s 3-yard run with 11:53 remaining.
Leinart fell to 0-5 as a starter and had his third consecutive rough outing.
“I’m just so mad at myself,” Leinart said. “Two turnovers that lead to 14 points, you can’t have that. That’s my fault. That’s a good football team, but we didn’t make the plays when we needed to, and a lot of that falls on me. I’m real disappointed in the way I’m playing right now.”
With Dallas leading 13-3, the Cardinals moved to the Cowboys 49, but Akin Ayodele intercepted Leinart’s pass over the middle. A facemask penalty against Arizona’s Reggie Wells moved the ball to the Cowboys 49. On the next play, Owens beat defender Eric Green and was wide open down the sidelines for a touchdown that put Dallas ahead 20-7.
The Cowboys never trailed, converting two third-and-8 situations in a late first-quarter drive that ended with Mike Vanderjagt’s 28-yard field goal to make it 3-0.
Dallas added its only first-half touchdown on its next possession. Romo capped a seven-play, 78-yard drive with his TD pass to Crayton with 8:33 to go.
Leinart’s 43-yard pass to Boldin set up Neil Rackers’ 28-yard field goal that cut the lead to 10-3 with 3:31 to play in the half.
After the kickoff, the Cowboys were backed up to second-and-22 from their nine, but Barber ran 12 yards and Romo connected with Crayton for a 34-yard play and a first down. Vanderjagt’s 38-yard field goal as the half ended put Dallas ahead 13-3.
Dallas lost starting defensive end Greg Ellis to a left Achilles’ tendon injury early in the fourth quarter. … The Cardinals are 11-29 since Green took over as coach. … Arizona has scored 33 points in three games since Mike Kruczek replaced Keith Rowen as offensive coordinator. … The Cowboys play five of their last seven at home.