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Dallas coach defends decisions after 19-13 OT loss

Arizona Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (36) rushes for the game-winning touchdown during overtime of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 19-13. Arizona Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (36) rushes for the game-winning touchdown during overtime of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 19-13. (AP Photo/Matt York)
By Bob Baum
AP Sports Writer / December 4, 2011
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GLENDALE, Ariz.—The Dallas Cowboys made mistakes throughout their 19-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. No one in that department was in a brighter spotlight than coach Jason Garrett.

His decision to call a timeout an instant before Dan Bailey tried what would have been the winning 49-yard field goal at the end of regulation was at the top of the list. Bailey made the kick, but because of the timeout, he had to do it again. This one was short and to the left.

"I was glad they iced their kicker at the end so I didn't have to do it," deadpanned Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt.

The Cardinals won the coin toss before overtime, then Kevin Kolb threw a short pass to LaRod Stephens-Howling, who zipped 52 yards for the winning score. It was the third excruciating finish for the Cowboys in Arizona in their three meetings since 2008. Feely's 48-yard field goal with 5 seconds to play won it last Christmas, and a blocked punt in overtime beat the Cowboys in 2008.

Dallas could have called timeout on the play before the missed field goal, perhaps getting in another play before the kick. Instead, Tony Romo spiked the ball.

"We could have very well called a time out there. We felt like we were in field goal range," Garrett said. "We had yard lines that we use as guidelines before the game and we felt like we were in range at that point. Tony had them on the line of scrimmage quickly and clocked it and use that as a timeout. You see so many situations where you have negative plays in those situations. We felt like we were in his range to give him a chance to kick the game winner."

Garrett said he called timeout before the kick because "the play clock was running down."

"We just wanted to make sure that he had a real clean opportunity at it," he explained. "It was at about 6 (seconds) and we were still getting settled in, so we banged a time out to give him the opportunity to get the snap, hold and kick as clean as possible."

Bailey, a rookie, said all the right things.

"The first one, I felt like I hit it good. Obviously it went in," he said. "We called the timeout, but that is my job to regroup and make the next one. I didn't do that. No excuses. I should have made it despite the circumstances."

Indecision also hurt the Cowboys.

Early in the game, Dallas had a third-and-2 at the Arizona 36. Romo's pass to John Phillips was incomplete and Dallas went for it on fourth down -- well, almost. Romo overthrew Dez Bryant but, in a glimpse of things to come, the play was negated by a Cowboys timeout. Instead of going for it, maybe with a run play, Garrett opted for a 53-yard field goal try. Bailey missed, snapping a string of 26 straight made field goals that dated to Week 2.

There were plenty of other missed opportunities that couldn't be blamed on the coach.

The Cowboys were in Arizona territory six of the seven times they had the ball in the first half, yet led only 10-3 at the half.

"It is disappointing but we still have everything we want in front of us," tight end Jason Witten said. "We have to stay positive, get better and play better football. We have to put ourselves in better situations throughout the game. We didn't play good enough to win."

Dallas (7-5) maintained a one-game lead in the NFC East because the second-place New York Giants lost to Green Bay. The Cowboys and Giants play next Sunday in Dallas.

It was the third straight time the Cowboys have lost in Arizona in excruciating fashion. Last Christmas, Jay Feely kicked a game-winning 48-yard field goal with five seconds to play. In 2008, the Cardinals blocked a punt and returned it three yards for the winning score in overtime.

"There's something about the Cowboys," Arizona wide receiver Andre Roberts said. "I don't know."

Kolb completed 16 of 25 passes for 247 yards in his first game in five weeks.

Romo was 28 for 42 for 299 yards for the Cowboys.

Arizona (5-7), which has won four of five, beat a team with a winning record for the first time this season.

Each quarterback was sacked five times.

The Cardinals won the toss and got the ball for the first and only possession in overtime.

Kolb's 16-yard pass to Roberts, who had six catches for career-high 111 yards, advanced the ball to the Dallas 47, but a false start penalty moved it back to the Arizona 48.

On first-and-15, Kolb threw a short swing pass to Stephens-Howling. The play easily got the first down, but the diminutive back stayed on his feet, avoided would-be tacklers and made a couple of nifty cuts en route to the end zone.

Kolb, out with turf toe and bruise on the side of his right foot since Oct. 30, was rusty early, but after halftime, he was 9 of 14 for 203 yards.

Bryant had eight catches for 86 yards, but DeMarco Murray managed just 38 yards on 12 carries.

The Cardinals had to punt from the end zone late in the game and Bryant returned it to the 22, but an illegal block in the back penalty against Orlando Scandrick pushed it back to the Dallas 40

"Of course I think it was a bad call," Bryant said.

As usual, there was a huge contingent of white-jerseyed Dallas fans, a fact apparent not only from the color of their apparel but from the loudness of the cheering when the Cowboys did something good.

They left disappointed -- again.

Notes: The roof at University of Phoenix Stadium was open for the second game in a row. ... Ten different players were credited for the game's 10 sacks. ... Dallas TE Martellus Bennett left with a rib injury in the third quarter.

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