With the temperature outside reaching a record 114 degrees, the offenses inside University of Phoenix Stadium were anything but scorching.

There was a total of one touchdown, thrown by Dallas' fourth-string quarterback, in the Arizona Cardinals' 12-7 victory over the Cowboys on Saturday.

Not surprisingly, coaches on both sides praised their defensive efforts while finding plenty to fault on offense.

Dallas committed six turnovers, five in the first half, but still allowed only 12 points, leaving Arizona's first-year coach Bruce Arians to say it is "unacceptable" for his team to score nine points on 51 first-half plays.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, meanwhile, called his team's turnover total "inexcusable."

Here are five things we learned while watching this less-than-spectacular example of preseason football.

1. BOTH TEAMS STRONG ON 'D': A week after a 17-0 road win at Green Bay, the Cardinals had another strong defensive performance. Even on a pair of big plays by Dallas' offense, Arizona managed to create turnovers.

The first came when Tony Romo threw short to Lance Dunbar, who raced 43 yards downfield before being tripped up at the Arizona 7. As he went down, he lost the ball, but the officials ruled he was down by contact. Arians challenged and the ruling was overturned, with Arizona's Jerraud Powers recovering at the Cardinals 4.

Later, Romo threw deep to Dez Bryant, but Powers stripped the ball away and recovered.

"I want to be a type of guy to go out there and force turnovers and make plays," Powers said, "and we have a lot of guys on defense that can do that.'"

The Cowboys, meanwhile, kept the Cardinals out of the end zone despite giving them five extra possessions in the first half alone.

"We were put in difficult situations today, but those situations come with the game," Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr said. "It was just good practice for us with our backs to the wall."

2. BETHEL'S A BEAST: Arizona's Justin Bethel is a beast on special teams.

A sixth-round draft pick in 2012 out of little Presbyterian, Bethel made the team with his special teams skills as a rookie and has been even better so far this year.

As the "gunner" on the punt team, he wreaks havoc downfield.

When Dave Zastudil lofted a 56-yard punt in the game's opening minutes, Bethel and special teams Pro Bowl player Lorenzo Alexander rushed downfield and zeroed in on retreating returner Dwayne Harris. Bethel got there first, stripping the ball and Arizona recovered to set up (what else) a field goal.

3. MOSTLY SHARP TONY: Even though he couldn't get his team in the end zone, Romo looked sharp for the most part, completing 7 of 10 for 142 yards with no interceptions. The lone bad play came when he missed a wide-open Terrance Williams for what surely would have been a touchdown.

Romo indicated it wasn't all his fault.

"It was an adjustment route, so he has to see it a little differently," Romo said. "Obviously, if he runs that route, I have to adjust to that. It's part of learning. It's his first game and we'll have it down."

Pretty much every other pass was on the mark, although he and the rest of the Dallas starters have not scored this preseason.

4. LARRY'S LEARNING: Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald continues to have his frustrations as he works to learn not only a new offense, but two new positions as well.

The star receiver played the same position throughout his pro career until Arians arrived. Now, he's learning all three wide receiver positions so, Arians said, defenses will have a harder time double covering him.

Fitzgerald was upset with himself after the game for missing a "hot" read in a crucial situation.

"I have to be accountable and make sure I'm doing what I need to do so Carson can trust me," he said, "and I can make the plays for him."

Still, Fitzgerald had three catches for 44 yards.

5. BIG-PLAY COWBOYS (ALMOST): The Cowboys' first unit hasn't scored a point, but they showed they can make big plays, if they can just hang on to the ball at the end.

The fumble by Dunbar at the 7-yard line and Bryant getting stripped by Powers as the receiver was going down were the two most costly of Dallas' six turnovers.

Garrett challenged the ruling on Bryant's fumble, but it was confirmed.

"It was a shame that they ended in turnovers," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, "because both of them were the kind of plays I think we can get out of this offense."



AP NFL site: http://pro32.ap.org


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