ARLINGTON, Texas — Maybe Kyler Murray will lose a game on the home field of the Dallas Cowboys one of these days.It wasn't going to be on a night when the Arizona quarterback watched the star running back of his hometown team have another night of fumble-itis.Murray accounted for three touchdowns in his first game back home as a pro, Ezekiel Elliott set up the visiting team's first two TDs with fumbles and the Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-10 on Monday night.The speedy quarterback who won three high school championships and a Big 12 title at the home of the Cowboys improved to 7-0 as a starter at AT&T Stadium, throwing for two scores despite a rough start through the air and rushing for 74 yards and a TD.“That’s not easy when that’s what everyone has been talking about all week,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He’s probably had this one circled on his calendar since it came out. But I thought he handled himself well.”It was the “Monday Night Football” debut for Murray, a star in high school football-obsessed Texas while playing in the Dallas suburbs, and Kingsbury, who also had a happy first trip to his native Texas as an NFL coach.“It was fun, brought back a lot of memories," Murray said. "Felt like I’ve been playing there every Sunday honestly. It’s comfortable, felt good.”Fired after six seasons at Texas Tech in 2018 without any winning records in Big 12 games, Kingsbury was hired by Arizona soon after and has the Cardinals (4-2) tied for second place in the tough NFC West. Arizona is above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2015, its most recent playoff year.Andy Dalton had the rest of Dallas' four turnovers with two interceptions in his first start for the Cowboys in place of injured star Dak Prescott, just down the road from where he had a standout career at TCU.The nine-year starter in Cincinnati led a come-from-behind victory over the New York Giants in Week 5 after the gruesome-looking compound fracture of Prescott's right ankle. There wasn't anything resembling a rally this time.While the Dallas offence didn't look anything close to the NFL-leading unit it was with Prescott — and lost the fourth of its five projected starting offensive linemen in four-time All-Pro Zack Martin (first-quarter concussion) — Elliott's miscues led to the fifth straight game in which the Cowboys have trailed by at least two touchdowns.The Cowboys (2-4) overcame two of those deficits, which is why they were guaranteed to stay in first place in the woeful NFC East no matter what happened in the last of three straight home games — and a third straight road game for Arizona.“The record, it is what it is right now, the division is what it is right now, but it’s still early,” Dalton said. “There’s a lot of football left to be played, and for us, we’ve got to improve as a football team.”Elliott was benched briefly after the two-time rushing champion lost a second fumble in the same game for the first time in his career. He has five fumbles (four lost) already this season — one shy of his career high for an entire season as the NFL's worst turnover margin dropped to minus-12 with four giveaways and no takeaways.Murray was playing in the $1.2 billion stadium with the retractable roof and giant video board for the first time since leading Oklahoma over rival Texas there in the Big 12 championship game.While the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner misfired on eight of his first 11 passes and finished 9 of 24 for 188 yards, Murray hit Christian Kirk in stride on an 80-yard touchdown for a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.“It wasn’t as good as it should have been,” said Murray, who tied Jim Hart's 1968 franchise season record for QBs with his sixth rushing TD. "Wasn’t as accurate as I should have been. Wasn’t up to par for my standards, so I’ve got to be better.”Kirk opened the scoring on a 6-yard jet sweep that counted as a pass after the first fumble from Elliott. Kenyan Drake scored from the 1 after the second Elliott miscue, while Murray added a 1-yard TD run.With the game out of hand in the final two minutes, Drake broke free for a 69-yard touchdown run, giving him 164 yards.CAPTAIN KIRKA former Texas A&M standout, Kirk came in with two 100-yard games and five touchdowns in three wins over Arkansas at the home of the Cowboys. Both of his catches in this game were for scores.“When the bright lights come on, the cream of the crop rises,” Kirk said. “It’s something about big moments, the level of play always elevates. It’s just rising to the occasion.”INJURIESMartin was briefly injured and returned, then went out for good after taking a knee to the helmet. Second-year player Connor McGovern took his spot, leaving left guard Connor Williams as the only preseason starter still in the lineup.PANDEMIC CROWDThe Cowboys have had fans at all four home games, with the biggest so far (barely) at 25,174 against the Cardinals. While it was the most coronavirus-friendly setting so far with the retractable roof open for the first time, TV shots showed plenty of fans without masks over their noses. Dallas is filling about 31% of the 80,000-seat stadium. The state allows up to 50%.UP NEXTCardinals: Seattle at home Sunday to start a stretch of three straight home games that is also scheduled to include the bye, meaning Arizona won't be on the road for a month barring COVID-19 changes.Cowboys: Washington on Sunday in the first of two consecutive road games against NFC East opponents.___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFLSchuyler Dixon, The Associated Press
ARLINGTON, Texas — If the Dallas Cowboys are going to win without Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott will have to hang on to the ball.Elliott lost two fumbles in the same game for the first time in his career and was benched briefly, Andy Dalton threw two interceptions in his first start filling in for the injured Prescott, and the Cowboys never had a chance in a 38-10 loss to Arizona on Monday night.While Dalton's interceptions added to the club's NFL-worst turnover margin of minus-12, Elliott's miscues were the biggest because they set up the first two Arizona touchdowns, and handed the Cowboys (2-4) a deficit of at least two touchdowns for the fifth straight game.“It’s frustrating to see the pattern here, five of the six games this year,” first-year coach Mike McCarthy said.The good news for the Cowboys? They knew going in they would be in first place in the woeful NFC East no matter what happened. So what seemed like a critical three-game homestand when Dallas was 1-2 ended with two more losses, and a jump in the division standings.The first Elliott fumble came after the two-time rushing champion took a shovel pass from Dalton as the quarterback was trying to escape pressure. Elliott turned upfield but didn't see Budda Baker, who knocked the ball loose and Jordan Phillips recovered at the Arizona 46.After Christian Kirk's 6-yard score on a jet sweep that counted as a pass, Elliott fumbled again two plays later at the Dallas 27. Kenyan Drake's 1-yard run made it 14-0.Elliott has five fumbles in six games (four lost), just one shy of his career high for an entire season from two years ago. He had never lost more than two fumbles in a season before this year, and now has four in 2020.“I don’t know why,” Elliott said. “I’ve just got to focus up. I’ve got to do better with it.”There was more bad news, too. Four-time All-Pro guard Zack Martin left in the first half with a concussion, leaving the Cowboys without four of the five preseason starters on the offensive line for most of their first game without Prescott, the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year who was the NFL's runaway passing leader before the injury.The two-time rushing champion was benched briefly the next possession, replaced by Tony Pollard before returning in the final few plays of a drive that ended in a punt from the Arizona end.Pollard ended up with 10 carries to 12 for Elliott, who had 49 yards. Pollard finished with 31 yards. Elliott did have eight catches, but for just 31 yards.“I think they did the right thing and gave some of those reps to (Pollard),” Elliott said. “I have to be a guy this team can lean on, especially in the times right now with so many of our starters not playing. It’s not acceptable. I need to figure it out.”The Cowboys have an NFL-high 15 giveaways, and the 84 points they've allowed off turnovers are the most in the NFL through six games since at least 2000.“Maybe frankly, maybe we’re trying too hard, or maybe we’re overcoaching it,” McCarthy said. “We’ve been playing uphill every single game. We haven’t gotten into a groove or rhythm and got out in front yet this year.”While the offence didn't help a defence that's been struggling all season, that group faded again after its best start. Dallas gave up Kyler Murray's 80-yard touchdown to Kirk, and Drake broke free for a 69-yard run with the game out of hand in the final two minutes.The Cowboys have allowed 218 points, the most through six games since the 1961 Raiders gave up 228 as an AFL team. The last NFL team to give up more was Washington in 1954 with 223 points.Dalton, who won 70 games in nine years as the starter in Cincinnati before signing a one-year deal to be Prescott's backup when the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow No. 1 overall, was 34 of 54 266 yards with a late, meaningless touchdown.“It’s one of those things where I’m always going to be my worst critic,” Dalton said. “Everybody’s got to do that same thing, got to look at ourselves and what can I do to make me a better player to help us win these games and give us a chance.”___More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFLSchuyler Dixon, The Associated Press
The Cowboys weren’t world beaters with Prescott. They never looked this bad though. Prescott was the glue. Now the team is rubble.