IRVING, Texas - Sunday's game marked the return of one key linebacker to the Cowboys defense as Dat Nguyen returned to the field, but another was lost midway through the game when veteran strong-side linebacker Al Singleton fractured his right clavicle and is likely out for the season.
"(We) got a few guys nicked up, but we have a little time to get well maybe and see where we go," Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells said after his team's 34-13 victory over Arizona. "Singleton broke his shoulder/collar bone. He will probably he done. I'm not sure about that, but he probably will be."
Singleton's injury likely would take at least six weeks to heal. The Cowboys are already saving a spot on the active roster for wide receiver Patrick Crayton (ankle).
Singleton, who ranked ninth on the team with 18 total tackles, registered one tackle in game before being injured. He had started every game this season for the Cowboys and has one interception and two quarterback pressures to go along with his 18 tackles.
The ninth-year veteran missed the final three games of the 2004 season with a groin/abdominal injury. He was taken to the locker room in the third quarter for X-rays and returned to the sideline wearing street clothes at the end of the game.
Linebacker Scott Fujita, who had been rotating with Singleton on the strong side, filled in for Singleton the rest of the game. He also spelled linebacker DeMarcus Ware on the weak side for a play, showing the versatility the Cowboys had hoped for when they acquired him in a trade with Kansas City on Sept. 4.
Fujita also registered his first sack of the season when he dropped Arizona quarterback Josh McCown for a loss of 11 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter. The sack pushed the Cardinals out of field goal range and forced them to punt.
Should Fujita move into a full-time starting job at strong-side linebacker, rookie Kevin Burnett would likely become the primary backup at outside linebacker. Burnett has mostly played on special teams this season, contributing two tackles.
Nguyen got very few snaps Sunday, working mostly with the Cowboys' dime package as the sole linebacker.
Suisham Holds His Own
Rookie kicker Shaun Suisham passed his first test Sunday, but not necessarily with flying colors.
The former practice squad player, signed to the 53-man roster when Jose Cortez was released Monday, was 2-for-2 on field goals against the Cardinals and made all four of his extra points. But those field goals were both only from 21 yards out, and his kickoffs were consistently caught between the 5- and 10-yard line.
Suisham also struggled during pre-game warm-ups, which he attributed to nervousness about his first NFL game.
"I kind of struggled a bit in warm-ups," Suisham said. "I was just a little over-stimulated, a little jittery. And I had the opportunity to come back in (the locker room) and sit down and talk with Mat (McBriar). I got a few more kicks in just before the game started and felt a lot more confident.
"There were a couple times later in the game where I thought I might get a chance to try a longer (attempt), and I was pretty excited by that."
Earlier in the week, Parcells said Cortez was released partially due to poor practice and warm-up kicking. But Cortez also missed a 29-yard field goal in last week's loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Suisham was solid on all six kicks he attempted. His biggest problem came on kickoffs, which were caught on average at the Arizona 8.6 yard line, including two that were caught at the Arizona 14.
Suisham said after the game he was unhappy with his kickoffs.
"I'm just going to try and continue to improve," Suisham said. "It's nice to have the first one under the belt. I hear the first one is the hardest."
The Cowboys defense held McCown to just 142 passing yards Sunday, just two weeks after he posted more than 700 total passing yards in two games.
The key to containing the Cardinals' passing game was defensive pressure. The defense registered three sacks and forced McCown to hurry numerous throws to avoid more sacks.
"The coaches came up wit ha good things for us to get to him," Cowboys defensive end Greg Ellis said. "We didn't have too many sacks, but we got to him and that obviously affected his passes. Our guys were creating pressure. Like I said, we didn't get many sacks, but we played team defense and created plays for other guys."
Ellis led the Cowboys with 1.5 sacks. It was his first multi-sack game of the season, and he now leads the team with five sacks. Fujita had one sack and linebacker Bradie James also contributed a half-sack in the game.
The Cowboys have recorded three or more sacks in five of eight games this season.
The heavy pressure by the Cowboys defense contributed to a 47.7 quarterback rating for McCown. He finished the game 16-of-33 for 161 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
"Dallas did some good things against us on defense," Cardinals lineman Reggie Wells said. "I don't know exactly what it was. We've got to look at the film. But obviously, we didn't get as much productions as we would have liked."
Laying Out McCown
One of the most memorable plays on defense came when safety Keith Davis nailed McCown as the quarterback tried to scramble out of bounds.
Davis, who played with McCown one year at Sam Houston State, said he'd told the quarterback before the game to watch out.
"He deserved it," Davis said. "I told him that before the game. I said, 'Josh, I'm going to get you. I'm going to get you.' I know what type of quarterback he is. I know he's going to get a chance to scramble, and I told him if I ever caught him I'm going to get him. And he gave me the perfect opportunity to get him. He didn't like that too much."
Davis was fifth on the team in tackles with four. He also led the team in special teams tackles with three.
- Sunday's game was the fourth time in club history the Cowboys were not penalized and the first time it has happened since Nov. 5, 1989 in Washington.
- Besides Singleton, the Cowboys had three other players suffer minor injuries against the Cardinals. Rookie defensive tackle Jay Ratliff sprained his ankle, and safety Willie Pile and cornerback Anthony Henry suffered injured groins.
- Bledsoe had his best completion percentage of his career Sunday by completing 19-of-24 passes for 79.2 percent. His previous best was 77.8 percent in a 2002 game against Chicago.
- The Cowboys' inactive players included quarterback Drew Henson, running back Julius Jones, offensive tackle Ethan Brooks, guard Stephen Peterman, wide receiver Patrick Crayton, linebacker Eric Ogbogu, defensive tackle Thomas Johnson and defensive end Kenyon Coleman.
The Cowboys defense allowed just 213 total yards, the second-best defensive showing of the season behind its 129-yard performance against Philadelphia . . . Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson led the team with six catches for 54 yards on Sunday. He now has at least one reception in each of his 143 career games . . . With the win over Arizona, Parcells moved into a tie with Paul Brown for ninth in NFL history in all-time coaching wins with 170.