Carson Palmer-Larry Fitzgerald connection not enough for Cardinals

Cardinals couldn't finish off Cowboys early (2:10)

Louis Riddick discusses how a negated touchdown and missed field goal kept Dallas in the game and how important this win is for the Cowboys. (2:10)

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There's a secret recipe for the Arizona Cardinals' success on offense this season.

Well, it's not exactly a secret.

Take one part Carson Palmer and one part Larry Fitzgerald. Mix Palmer's arm strength and accuracy with Fitzgerald's hands, add a few short- or medium-range passes and a dash of deep balls, and the result is one of the more formidable quarterback-receiver combinations in the NFL. On Monday night, with the eyes of the NFL -- and the nation -- on the game, Fitzgerald turned in one of the best performances of his career, tying a career-high with 13 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. It was Fitzgerald's first time with at least 10 catches, 100 yards and a touchdown since Week 17 of the 2010 season in San Francisco.

"That's Fitz," coach Bruce Arians said. "That's Monday night. He's a Monday player. It was a great performance by him. It's a shame we couldn't play better around him."

When Palmer and Fitzgerald are in sync, as they were during Monday night's 28-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the offense finds a rhythm. It moves. It opens up for other players. When Palmer has to look elsewhere, things change. While Palmer completed 13 of 15 passes to Fitzgerald, he completed 16 of 33 passes to everyone else Monday night. He averaged 9.9 yards per attempt to Fitzgerald and 5.3 to everyone else.

"I think he would be anybody's target of choice," Palmer said. "The touchdown route was great. We had him two other one-on-one situations with his big body on a small body, and I love that matchup whoever that guy is, as long as he has that size advantage because he can jump and make those kinds of plays."

But as was proof Monday night, they can't do it alone.

Arizona's defense allowed too many long passes by Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and couldn't contain running back Ezekiel Elliott long enough. Prescott threw for 183 yards, but 90 of them went to Brice Butler. Dez Bryant, who had two catches for 12 yards, was all but erased by Patrick Peterson, who wasn't targeted when he was covering Bryant, according to Pro Football Focus. Elliott, who was held to zero yards in the first quarter, had 31 yards at halftime, added another 31 in the third quarter and finished with 80.

At times, despite Palmer and Fitzgerald being on the same page, they didn't get help from their own teammates.

After Palmer threw to Fitzgerald five times on Arizona's second drive of the game, Phil Dawson missed a 36-yard field goal attempt.

More often than not, though, it was Arizona's defense that erased all the good Palmer and Fitzgerald created together.

After Palmer hit Fitzgerald for an incredible, 24-yard catch that Fitzgerald went up and over Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick to get, Arizona's defense gave up a 53-yard pass to Butler and a touchdown three plays later.

"Nothing that Larry does ever surprises me," coach Bruce Arians said. "Especially in crunch time."

But when Fitzgerald and Palmer were on, there were few things inside University of Phoenix Stadium that could slow either one. They connected on Palmer's first 11 attempts to Fitzgerald, including a 15-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14 in the third quarter. On that drive, two of the three plays were to Fitzgerald. But Fitzgerald didn't think he was in for a big day based on his early production.

"I don't think it has anything to do with it," Fitzgerald said. "Usually, my numbers are scripted calls early in games. Like last week, the Colts played schemes where it wasn't capable to get opportunities, and that just happens from time to time. That is just ball.

"Sometimes you are going to have some looks and other times it is just not there."

They were there plenty on Monday night.