Somewhat lost in the news of Trevon Diggs' season-ending injury this past Thursday was that center Tyler Biadasz had also left practice that same day with a hamstring issue.
Needless to say, when the update came prior to this Sunday matchup in Arizona that Biadasz, right guard Zack Martin and left tackle Tyron Smith would all be sidelined, the team's offensive line situation suddenly took center stage – a position already lacking depth would now have that depth severely tested.
Surprisingly, though, even with all the uncertainty on offense, in losing to the Cardinals, 28-16, it was the Dallas defense that struggled. Dan Quinn's men surrendered six plays of at least 20 yards on its way to allowing 400 yards of total offense to Arizona overall. The home side's rushing attack earned 222 yards on the ground with three players rushing for at least 50 yards.
In earning his first career win, Cardinals quarterback Joshua Dobbs completed 81 percent of his pass attempts for 189 yards and a touchdown for a 120.0 passer rating. Of that 189 total, 69 of those yards came on one play.
His counterpart for the Cowboys, Dak Prescott, attempted 40 passes on the day, completing 25 for 249 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a 78.0 rating. His main target was Michael Gallup, who had largely been overlooked in the team's first two outings of the season. But in this one, he hauled in a game-high six catches for 92 yards, his best output since earning 106 yards against the Raiders on Nov. 25, 2021.
Also chipping in was Tony Pollard, who racked up 122 rushing yards on 23 carries that helped Dallas total 416 yards of total offense.
But hurting the cause was a 1-for-5 effort in the red zone and a whopping 13 penalties for 107 yards in all. That included 10 penalties in the first half, which was the most in a half by an NFC team in 11 years, as reported by FOX Sports. The Cowboys had totaled 11 penalties for 73 yards in their first two games combined.
The Cardinals wasted little time in jumping out to a two-possession lead. It began on the second offensive snap of the game when Dobbs took off around left end for a 44-yard gain down to the Cowboys' 29. The defense held the line there, but Arizona was good on a 39-yard field goal, marking the first time in this young season that Dallas trailed.
That hole would soon enough become deeper. After false start and delay of game penalties led to a quick three-and-out for the Cowboys offense, Arizona needed only seven plays to travel 82 yards to reach the end zone. The Cardinals had plays off 17, 20 and 10 yards during the drive as well as a 22-yard pass interference call on cornerback DaRon Bland.
Running back James Conner rushed around the right end the final five yards for the touchdown, although Arizona's two-point conversion try was stuffed, no good.
Prescott then went to work. Despite being sacked twice during the drive, the quarterback completed 4-of-6 passes for 46 yards with a 10-yard pass interference call thrown in to get Dallas into field goal range. Brandon Aubrey took it from there, hitting his field goal from 49 yards to get the Cowboys on the board.
Unfortunately, the Dallas defense still couldn't figure out the Arizona offense as the home side continued to add to its point total. And again, the Cardinals did so with help from Cowboys penalties and their own big plays.
A defensive holding penalty provided Arizona a first down after failing to move the chains itself on third-and-11. That was followed two plays later by wideout Rondale Moore taking the handoff and dashing up the middle 45 yards to the goal line. The Cardinals were unable to convert the two-point conversion once more, but still bumped their lead up to double-digits.
Slowly but surely, though, Prescott and company were finding their offensive legs. The quarterback engineered a 13-play drive that ate up nearly seven minutes of clock. Pollard ran the ball five times for 34 yards with Prescott eventually capping the series with a screen pass to running back Rico Dowdle, who then exploded down the right seam to pay dirt and the Cowboys' first touchdown.
However, it was more of the same on the other side of the ball as the Cardinals finished the half with two more field goals, earning points on each of their first five possessions. Arizona kicker Matt Prater was first good from 43 yards, and then after the Cowboys went three-and-out, narrowly booted a 62-yarder over the crossbar to give his team a 21-10 lead at the break.
Through the first 30 minutes of play, the Cowboys had already given up more rushing yards (182) and points (21) than they had in the first two games combined. Their 266 yards surrendered through the first half were also more than they had allowed overall in either of their first two full outings.
Hoping to set a new tone, the Cowboys got the third quarter off to a good start by immediately marching downfield to set Aubrey up for a 27-yard field goal. Prescott twice helped move the chains on third down, first with a pretty connection to CeeDee Lamb down the right sideline for a 32-yard gain, which was soon followed by the quarterback himself scrambling out of trouble for a 13-yard pickup.
And even though a 51-yard punt return from KaVonate Turpin was wiped out due to another Cowboys penalty, that offensive machine only picked up steam when the Cowboys still produced another impressive drive. But that momentum pendulum would take a quick swing back the other way when on fourth-and-3 at the Arizona 4-yard line, Mike McCarthy made the decision to go for it, only to see Prescott's pass under pressure fall incomplete.
With the Dallas defense forcing a second-consecutive punt, the Cowboys took possession at their own 36-yad line and quickly worked their way back into enemy territory. And although the drive stalled at the Arizona 8-yard line, this time McCarthy chose to take the field goal, Aubrey good on his 26-yarder.
But then disaster struck when the Cowboys secondary got its signals crossed, which left wide receiver Michael Wilson all alone for a huge 69-yard gain down to the Dallas 7-yard line. Three plays later, Dobbs threaded a pass to Marquise Brown for the touchdown and what would turn out to be an insurmountable 28-16 lead.
Not that the Cowboys were about to roll over. Relying heaving on the ground game, the team's offense came right back down the field and into the red zone, reaching the Cardinals' 5-yard line. But after two plays brought a net of minus-1 yard, Prescott dropped back on third-and-goal and threw into heavy coverage in the middle of the end zone.
So instead of hitting his target, Brandin Cooks, the pass was instead picked off by Arizona linebacker Kyzir White, Prescott's first interception of the season.
With that, the Cardinals had to burn off the final 3:00 minutes and with four first downs – one coming thanks to a facemask penalty on Dallas – that was that for the Cowboys' comeback hopes, the team suffering its first loss of the 2023 season.