GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Joshua Dobbs walked through the Arizona Cardinals' locker room at State Farm Stadium clutching the game ball he was given after leading Arizona to a 28-16 upset win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
He placed it on the podium for his postgame news conference alongside the phones and recorders catching his every word. Dobbs wasn't letting that ball out of his sight. To the sixth-year journeyman signal-caller, that prolate spheroid was a physical reminder of where he came from and where he was Sunday afternoon: celebrating his first career win.
"It was a tremendous full-circle moment because it feels like yesterday, man, I was getting ready for my first start on Thursday night against the Dallas Cowboys [last season with the Tennessee Titans]," Dobbs said. "So, yeah, it was a great full-circle moment and so it was good to take a moment to enjoy it."
Sunday wasn't a first just for Dobbs. It was also coach Jonathan Gannon's first career win and it was the Cardinals' first win of the season after giving up halftime leads in their first two games. Gannon, as he has done throughout his tenure in Arizona, showed little emotion as he downplayed his first head-coaching victory.
"I mean, hopefully one of many," he said, "but back to the drawing board tomorrow."
The Cardinals entered Sunday's game 11-point underdogs to the Cowboys, according to Caesars Sportsbook. Beating the spread and upsetting a team that many around the league predict will make the playoffs "felt good," said linebacker Kyzir White, who sealed the win with an end zone interception with three minutes left.
"Especially when you hear everybody saying, we're going to go 0-and-16," he added. "To get a win against the Cowboys, a great team like that, feel good."
The Cardinals were able to avoid the pitfalls that plagued them in their first two games -- both losses that many in the locker room believed they should have won -- thanks in large part to complementary football, tight end Geoff Swaim said. The offense was able to score in the second half, which it had struggled to do this season, and the defense had a bend-but-don't-break mentality, White added. That led to a celebratory locker room that could be heard through its doors.
"It's about time, man," Swaim said. "There's a part of you that knows that in our previous games, we did a lot to beat ourselves and, so, that's just been kind of the process the whole time is knowing that we can be a lot better than we've shown."
Arizona scored 20 points in the first half for the second straight game, going up 21-10 at halftime. Dobbs set the pace from the second play from scrimmage when he tore off a 44-yard run, which eventually led to a field goal.
"It was a great play," Dobbs said. "I stayed true to my reads, take what the defense gives me. They gave me a pull read and then it was great to make a play, really ignite the offense and the team anytime you're going against a really good defense."
The Cardinals scored on all five of their possessions in the first half, including the final one, a 62-yard field goal from kicker Matt Prater as time expired. It was the longest field goal of the season in the NFL. Prater couldn't see the low flying kick and didn't know it cleared through the goal posts until the officials under the uprights put their hands up.
"Anytime you're back that far and you hope it stays straight, you basically just try to swing to try to get it there," Prater said. "Fortunately, it went straight."
Arizona jumped out to a 15-3 lead after wide receiver Rondale Moore scored on a 45-yard outside zone run that ended in a foot race to the end zone between him and four Cowboys. The Cowboys threatened to find the end zone throughout the second half, but the Cardinals did something they couldn't do last week, when they surrendered leads of 20-0 and 28-7 in a loss to the New York Giants: They got stops when they needed them.
The Cowboys got within the 10-yard line on four drives in the second half but came away with just two field goals. The other two ended in an interception and a turnover on downs.
"We had some red zone stops and, I'm over it now, but how we lost the game Week 2, you can't do that," Gannon said. "And our guys understood, hey, we have to play cleaner and even if they go down the field, they can't go down the field fast, so that was a point of emphasis for our guys and they competed and made plays."
When the Cowboys cut Arizona's lead to 21-16 with 9:33 left in the game, two failed 2-point conversions in the first half loomed large. But on the first play of the Cardinals' next possession, Dobbs hit rookie receiver Michael Wilson for a 69-yard gain. Three plays later, Dobbs hit wide receiver Marquise Brown for a 2-yard touchdown to give the Cardinals the comfortable cushion they needed.
"It's something that they practiced for a couple weeks now and [offensive coordinator] Drew [Petzing] called it at the right time and the execution was there, the protection was there," Gannon said of the big gain. "Josh threw a good ball and Mike had some yards after catch there. Huge play to get us going.
"So, yeah, huge point in the game and it was a really good playcall there."
When Dobbs took a knee in the waning seconds, he thought about the past 12 months, going from the Cleveland Browns to the Detroit Lions to the Titans last season, then back to the Browns this offseason before getting traded to the Cardinals in late August. Then his thoughts turned to Sunday and giving himself, Gannon and the Cardinals their first wins of 2023.
"I'll enjoy the moment," Dobbs said. "But tomorrow get back to work, see how we can improve and get ready for next weekend."