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Cardinals' defense slows Murray, stops Bryant

ARLINGTON, Texas -- As soon as the Arizona Cardinals broke the huddle on fourth-and-1 from their own 34, rookie safety Deone Bucannon just knew.

He, and the 85,688 others inside AT&T Stadium, knew what was coming. But unlike the crowd, Bucannon knew the Cardinals No. 3-ranked rushing defense would be able to stop it.

This play was almost too easy to predict: Hand off to DeMarco Murray. Arizona sent Bucannon and linebacker Sam Acho off the edges. The play came “full flow” toward Bucannon. He jumped off the corner and hit Murray on the side, then the linebackers piled on and pushed Murray back.

No gain. Cardinals ball.

“We were, like, not even blinking an eye,” Bucannon said. “We knew we would stop him.”

The Cardinals took possession, and nine plays later quarterback Carson Palmer faked an inside handoff to Robert Hughes and hit Andre Ellington wide open for a 1-yard touchdown. It extended Arizona’s lead, and the Cardinals kept pulling away en route to a 28-17 win.

“I think it’s kinda when the game shifted a little bit,” nose tackle Dan Williams said.

“We knew they were going to try to get the ball to 29, and we just know we had to slow it down, try to get some penetration. We knocked him back, and he wasn’t able to get going. I think that kind of shifted the game, gave the team a little bit more energy.”

But Arizona had already set the tone by that point.

It held Murray, who had run for at least 100 yards in an NFL-record eight straight games heading into Sunday, to a season-low for yards in a first quarter and his second fewest yards in a first half this year. After three quarters, he had 77.

In the fourth quarter, he gained just two.

“We wanted to go out there and shut them down,” Calais Campbell said. “We did a pretty good job, [but] there are still some runs that he had too many yards.”

While all eyes were on Murray’s stat line, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson made Dallas receiver Dez Bryant all but invisible. Bryant, who came in averaging six receptions a game, was held without a catch until the final two minutes. He hauled in a 12-yard pass with 1:55 left and two plays later scored a garbage-time touchdown.

“I thought Pat, he just erased [Bryant] for most of the game,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “Up until the end, he was not a factor in the game.”

After the Cards spotted the Cowboys a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game, thanks to a Palmer interception that was returned for a touchdown, Arizona’s defense held Dallas to three points for the next 42:03 while intercepting Weeden twice. Tyrann Mathieu had his first pick of the season and Antonio Cromartie had his third in two games.

“We came in to stop the run, and I felt that, obviously, we did a very good job of that, and they didn’t have 100, I don’t think, as a team,” Arians said. “Hats off to the defensive line, linebackers and safeties because we missed some tackles, but they were very, very physical, and I thought we played on their side of the line most of the day.”