The Dallas Cowboys entered Sunday leading the NFL in yards and points per game.
The Arizona Cardinals did not care.
In a matchup of two teams with their playoff dates secured, the Cardinals stymied a previously red-hot Cowboys offense in a 25-22 road win. They also caught a late break when officials missed a fumble that could have given Dallas a chance to tie or take the lead in the game's final moments.
Mike McCarthy couldn't challenge late missed fumble
With 2:44 remaining in regulation and Arizona leading, 25-22, Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds ran to the left sideline and was tackled before going out of bounds. The ball came loose, and Cowboys players on the field believed they had a recovery. But officials ruled that Edmonds was down.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy had used all three of his second-half timeouts, and the Cowboys couldn't challenge the ruling on the field. Replay shows that the ball came loose before Edmonds was down.
The run instead helped the Cardinals secure a first down and run out the clock to snap a three-game losing streak.
Cowboys frustrated with refs
After the game, Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch told the media that he feels like the Cowboys are facing both the refs and the opposing team when they're on the field.
"I just don't understand how with the technology we have nowadays, even if we don't have timeouts or whatever it may be, to call a freaking challenge and challenge it. It's so obvious," Vander Esch said via ESPN. "Certain things are so obvious in the games that refs are messing up, why they aren't fixing it. It doesn't make any sense to me. To me, we're playing more against the refs than we are the other team. That is what it is. ... It's been multiple times this season."
Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence piled on, saying, "We're at home, we're facing two teams," adding that he hoped the NFL can fix the issue in the future.
"I'm gonna let the NFL handle that," Lawrence said via ESPN. "I know it's a possibility we see both of these teams in the playoffs. You know hopefully the NFL can sit down with their team, review the film, learn from their mistakes and get better from it."
Cardinals stifled Cowboys early
That one missed fumble from the refs wasn't the only reason the Cowboys lost. The Cardinals looked like they would run away with the game until late as they held a Cowboys team that averages an NFL-best 30.5 points per game scoreless for most of the first half. They opened with a 10-0 lead and held the Cowboys off the board until Dak Prescott found Michael Gallup for a touchdown with 1:25 remaining in the second quarter. Gallup suffered a season-ending ACL tear on the play.
Arizona responded with scores on three straight possessions to extend its lead to 22-7 late in the third quarter. Dallas managed another touchdown on a short field to keep the pressure on. A late fumble by Prescott set up another Cardinals field goal to extend their lead back to two possessions midway through in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive to cut their deficit to 25-22 with 4:42 remaining. They didn't get the ball back as the Cardinals — aided by the missed fumble — ran out the clock.
It was a fitting end for the Cardinals, who controlled the clock for most of the game and held a 34:42-25:18 edge in time of possession. They outgained the Cowboys on offense 399 yards to 301, holding Dallas well below its league-best average of 409.5 yards per game. Dallas managed just 45 yards on the ground, as Ezekiel Elliott tallied 16 yards on nine carries.
Perhaps most important, the Cardinals didn't commit a turnover — not one that was called, at least — against a Dallas defense that leads the league in forced turnovers. Both teams come out of the game at 11-5.