It doesn't much matter to Arizona whether Tony Romo or Brandon Weeden starts for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The Cardinals are coming after the quarterback.
Just like Washington did when sending Romo to the locker room with his third back injury in 18 months.
Romo returned and finished the overtime loss to the Redskins on Monday. But lingering effects of damage to his surgically repaired back could push the decision on playing the 34-year-old against the Cardinals all the way to game time Sunday.
Washington repeatedly overloaded on the pass rush, sacking Romo a season-high five times, and the secondary held up well enough for the risky approach to work.
"I think I would have rather seen them not do it and let us be the one who surprised them with it, maybe," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "They were successful the other night. (Dallas is) going to watch our tape and see that we're very similar."
The Redskins snapped the first six-game winning streak for the Cowboys (6-2) since 2007, stopping Romo when he returned for the final Dallas drive of regulation, and again in the extra period after taking a 20-17 lead.
The Cardinals (6-1) had done the Cowboys a favor by beating NFC East rival Philadelphia 24-20 a day earlier on Carson Palmer's 75-yard touchdown pass to rookie John Brown. The NFC West leaders have sole possession of the best record in the NFC for the first time since 1974, and now get a chance to go 2 for 2 against the best in the NFC East.
"I think ... we have really the right mix of old guys and young guys and in-between guys," Palmer said. "Old guys that are leaders and old guys that just come to work every day and grind it out, and young guys that follow the right guys. The team is really well-built."
Things to consider as the Cardinals go in having beaten their old NFC East rival three straight times, all on the last play of the game:
SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE: Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray will try to extend the NFL record he took from Jim Brown with his ninth straight 100-yard game to start the season. Brown's record from 1958 was six straight. But the Cardinals haven't allowed a back to reach the century mark in 17 games, and just once in the past 26.
With 1,054 yards halfway through the season, Murray remains on pace for the eighth 2,000-yard season in NFL history and has a 288-yard lead in the rushing race.
"Very good. Very good," Murray said of Arizona's third-ranked run defense. "They're a good defense, a very, very physical defense. We'll have our hands full."
ROMO NO GO? Romo's status became muddled after he was injured on a third-quarter sack by Washington linebacker Keenan Robinson. He took a pain-killing injection after an X-ray showed no structural damage. Romo said the injury was "more than a contusion," the word coach Jason Garrett used to describe it.
The 34-year-old quarterback played through a herniated disk in a win over Washington last December, and had surgery five days later. He also had a cyst removed from his back in April 2013. This injury is unrelated to both. Garrett said the uncertainty wasn't because the Cowboys wanted to keep the Cardinals guessing.
IT'S STILL FUN: Like Romo, Palmer is 34. And he missed three games this season with a shoulder ailment. Unlike Romo, he's never had to deal with significant back issues, other than occasional spasms. And any issues of wear and tear don't weigh on his mind this late in his career, at least not right now.
"I'm having a blast," he said. "The preparation, the practices, seven on seven, team drills, the lifting, the studying. I enjoy all that. I think when that becomes too tedious and you start slacking in any one of those categories or any one of those areas, that's when it's time."
LIFE AFTER DURANT: Linebacker Justin Durant, Dallas' leading tackler, is out for the season with a torn muscle in his right arm. Rolando McClain, a key to the resurgence for last year's league-worst defense, struggled against the Redskins as the Cowboys couldn't get key stops late. Bruce Carter, just back from a thigh injury that sidelined him for three games, broke a finger in practice, but plans to play against Arizona.
"Me, Rolando, all the younger guys, we really got to step up because Justin was a huge part of our defense and we're really going to miss him," Carter said.
PETERSON CLEARED: Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson cleared concussion protocols within days of sustaining one against the Eagles and was a full participant in practice Thursday. Since 2011, he's the only NFL player with at least 10 interceptions (he has 12) and at least three punt returns for scores (four).
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