Glendale, Ariz. Arizona once soared on the arm of Kurt Warner. Dallas rests its hopes on Tony Romo.
Now, Warner is retired, Romo is hurt, and the teams are down to third-stringers John Skelton and Stephen McGee — the unlikely stars of a Christmas night drama staged by a pair of NFL teams headed nowhere.
Jay Feely’s 48-yard field goal inched over the crossbar with five seconds to play, giving the Cardinals a 27-26 victory over the Cowboys.
“Really, nothing’s bigger than beating the Dallas Cowboys on Christmas Day right now,” Cardinals rookie QB Skelton said. “Whiz (coach Ken Whisenhunt) was shaking my hand before the game and I said, ‘We have one last gift to unwrap.’ Sure enough, it took the last minute, but we got it.”
Dallas (5-10) rallied from 18 points down to take a 26-24 lead when McGee, in his first NFL game, threw 37 yards to Miles Austin for a touchdown with 1:46 to play. But David Buehler’s extra point went wide left.
“I’m not feeling too good,” Buehler said. “I feel bad for Stephen. He drove the team down there and got the touchdown. PATs are something that is something automatic. You have to put them through the uprights. I think I just rushed it a little bit.”
Arizona (5-10) was in deep trouble after the kickoff, but Skelton, on fourth-and-15 from the Cardinals 19, threw 26 yards to Larry Fitzgerald, his only catch of the game. Then Skelton threw 19 yards to fellow rookie Max Komar.
An illegal formation penalty moved the ball back five yards but still well within Feely’s range. Feely, who had a 49-yarder earlier, has missed three kicks all season, including a 49-yard attempt Saturday night.
Many thought the Cowboys had won it when the penalty was called because they expected a 10-second runoff. But referee Jeff Triplette said that the runoff does not apply to an illegal-formation call.
“I promise you, I almost threw my helmet,” Feely said. “I thought it was a 10-second runoff. We all did on the sideline.”
Fitzgerald’s string of games with at least two catches ended at 97, fourth longest in NFL history.
“About four years ago I might have been pouting on the sidelines at that time,” he said, “but I really wasn’t too frustrated, honestly. I saw the calls, and they were trying to get stuff all day.
“John Skelton made a terrific play down the stretch.”
The missed extra point haunted the Cowboys after the game.
“He (Bueller) has been a fairly consistent kicker at times,” interim Dallas coach Jason Garrett said, “and at other times he has missed some kicks that he is capable of making.”
Dallas fell behind, 14-0, when Kitna had interceptions returned for touchdowns on the Cowboys’ first two possessions. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned the first 32 yards, and Greg Toler the second 66.
Under clear skies with the stadium roof open and at least half the capacity crowd cheering for Dallas, the Cardinals took a 21-3 lead. Skelton, in his third NFL start, connected with wide-open rookie Andre Roberts on a 74-yard play for the young quarterback’s first NFL touchdown pass.
Kitna, the starter since Romo went down due to a broken collarbone, got Dallas in the end zone before halftime.
McGee, a fourth-round draft pick out of Texas A&M; in 2009, smoothly stepped in, repeatedly connecting on third-down passes. He finished 11-of-17 for 111 yards with no interceptions.
The Cowboys dropped to 4-3 since Wade Phillips was fired and replaced by Garrett. Arizona has won two of three after losing seven in a row.