Safety Tony Jefferson was upgraded to limited after not practicing Wednesday because of a concussion suffered in Sunday’s win over Philadelphia but not diagnosed until Monday morning. During the open portion of practice, Jefferson worked on the kickoff coverage unit. He cleared the concussion protocol later Thursday.
Linebacker Kenny Demens (knee) was also upgraded from limited to full.
Running back Andre Ellington (foot) was limited, as was tight end Troy Niklas (ankle).
Defensive end Calais Campbell (knee), wide receiver Michael Floyd (knee) and safety Rashad Johnson (knee) were all full.
But what happens when they don't know who, exactly, that'll be?
It may be Marion Grice, the rookie running back signed Sept. 23 off the San Diego Chargers' practice squad. It may be fullback Robert Hughes. It may be someone else, but Arizona hasn't added another running back to the 53-man roster as of Thursday night, leaving the likelihood of the Cardinals using a three-back rotation Sunday in Dallas as the best option.
Coach Bruce Arians said earlier this week he likes Kerwynn Williams, who's on the Cards' practice squad. But by losing Taylor for at least Sunday's game, the Cardinals' depth at running back behind starter Andre Ellington doesn't last long. The only back on the roster who has any offensive experience is Hughes -- and he only has two carries this season, and three total for his career.
Ellington's 464 rushing yards this season are responsible for 74.6 percent of the Cardinals' total yards on the ground. Eight other rushers combined for 158 yards.
On Monday, Arians said Grice will be the next man up, but offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said Thursday any of Arizona's backs are capable of filling the short-yardage and goal-line role that Taylor filled.
"It's going to be running back by committee," Goodwin said. "It could be Marion, could be Andre. Really doesn't matter. Could be Robert. We feel comfortable in all our backs so we'll be fine."
One thing is for certain, Grice will finally make his offensive debut, Goodwin said.
"He's going to play," Goodwin said. "He's got to play with Stepf being down and I'm confident in his ability to be a player and make plays for us."
Grice has been slowly learning the playbook. When Goodwin walked into the meeting room earlier Thursday he found Grice studying by himself. Grice has had more than a month to prepare and show Goodwin and Arians how he can be of help to a depleted backfield.
Without other options, Goodwin may be turning to Grice more often than initially planned when they picked him up.
"Be a first down, second down, third down" back, Goodwin said. "I just want him, myself personally, [to] make sure he runs the ball well. When he's called on to protect, protect. And obviously we throw the ball a little bit around here so hopefully catch it if it comes his way."
He knew something wasn't right. He had just played 73 snaps and made 11 tackles in Arizona's 24-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, but he couldn't recall much, if any, of it.
"I don't really remember the game," Jefferson said. "I just remember when I started driving ... I just stopped for 30 minutes. I was like, 'What just happened?' I don't remember what happened. It was kinda scary.
"I went home and watched the film on the iPad. It was like seeing you on auto pilot. It was pretty weird."
But he remembered how many tackles he had.
"I might have to push auto pilot a couple more times," Jefferson said jokingly.
Jefferson was diagnosed with a concussion Monday morning. He passed the concussion protocol on Thursday and practiced in a limited role, working on kickoff coverage during the open portion of practice.
He thinks it happened on a kickoff, but Jefferson said he wasn't sure when he talked to the media Thursday.
It came in the fourth quarter and just happened to be on one of the most important plays in Arizona’s 24-20 win. On the second to last play of the game, Mathieu skied over Philadelphia’s Jordan Matthews to deflect a potential game-winning touchdown.
“Probably my best game,” Mathieu said. “Wasn’t really thinking about my knee. I was moving around pretty good. I was in coverage and finally [able to] break on the ball [and] get an incompletion, so that was encouraging.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Sunday was the most encouraging game he’s seen out of the Honey Badger, who had four tackles while playing a season-high 76 snaps against the Eagles.
“He’s gotten better and better and better and more confident,” Arians said. “I think the day that brace comes off, he’ll be back to full speed, in his mind.
“He’s already back to full speed, but in his mind he’ll back there and more comfortable.”
But Mathieu’s brace may not come off for the rest of the season.
He began wearing it during training camp, and it took him a couple months to adjust to wearing it. This week, almost two months into the season, Mathieu said he’s just starting to feel comfortable with it.
“I don’t want to have any setbacks,” Mathieu said. “So, I’ll probably just keep it on.”
To keep the house clean and to root for the Dallas Cowboys.
Martinez's story isn't unique to him.
As a kid, there was no doubting where his football allegiances aligned and like many of the Cowboys fans living in Arizona in 1988 when the Cardinal relocated from St. Louis, there was no way they'd convert to the new team in town.
"I was born into it," said Martinez, the president of the Arizona's No. 1 Dallas Cowboys Fan Club.
So when the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals (6-1) face the NFC East leading Cowboys (6-2) at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Martinez won't be rooting for his hometown team.
The Arizona's 24/7 Dallas Cowboys Fan Club gathered to watch their Cowboys face their biggest rival, the Washington Redskins. Kids in DeMarco Murray jerseys scuttle through the aisles, while their parents sit in a sea of navy blue and white Jason Witten, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant jerseys, glued to the TV. It isn't as crowded as usual because it's a Monday night. The family-friendly club promotes that same atmosphere at these events.
"My dad raised me to be a Cowboys fan," said Robert Gutierrez, president of Arizona's 24/7 club.
Those in Gutierrez's group, who were born and raised in Arizona, are generally in the same 30- to 40-year-old age group and share the same Cowboy upbringing: Their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are fans. They're product of generations bearing generations. Being a Cowboys fan in Arizona took some loyalty and dedication, especially when the Cardinals moved here, but that passion has been passed along through birth.
It was cultivated before they were born -- for some even before the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
Between then and 1988, however, Cowboys fans were developed in front of the TV and around the radio. Without a local team to follow and long before the dawn of local TV rights, football fandom was developed by the major networks.
From 1970 to 1988, the Cowboys were on the nationally-televised "Monday Night Football" 36 times and had their games broadcast by the MNF crew another eight times.
"They were the main game," said 45-year-old Ernie Bohn, who lives in Glendale, Arizona. "That's all we watched.
"We never cheered for the East Coast teams, even though they had some good players, like the O.J. Simpson, Refrigerator Perry. We still cheered on the Cowboys … Danny White … they were good players."
Martinez, whose club is comprised of fans mainly on the west side of the Valley, estimates there are 50,000 Cowboys fans in Arizona. His club has close to 6,000 members and Gutierrez's club has close to 4,000.
"I'll be a Cowboy fan until I die," Gutierrez said.
Yvette Gleason, 39, who grew up on a Navajo reservation in Tuba City, Arizona, has been a Cowboys fan for "as far back as I can remember." It started with her dad, a real Cowboy himself, and was passed down to his 11 children. Gleason is the youngest and was influenced by two of her three brothers. The other brother, the oldest in the family, is a New York Jets fan.
"I don't know how that happened," she laughed.
Gleason said she didn't grow up with a TV on the reservation, so she'd keep tabs on the Cowboys on the radio or through newspapers. On Sunday nights, her family would sit around a radio and listen to games, with her father explaining what was happening.
When the family moved to a small town and got cable, they started watching games on TV together. And when the Cardinals moved to Arizona, there was no way she was converting.
"We were dedicated," she said. "We were already dedicated to the Cowboys and we weren't going to switch."
That loyalty has been passed down to her daughter, 14-year-old Mariah Kayanie. Sitting in a white Cowboys jersey, she remembers a picture of her when she was 6-years old wearing Cowboys gear.
"Just always stuck to the Cowboys," she said. "I knew if I switched my mom would be mad at me."
And as Murray kept running over and through the Redskins on Monday night, nobody got up. They sat through timeouts, commercials, even halftime. This was dedication. This is how they were brought up.
Their loyalty has been strained. Losing. Coaching changes. Stars departing. A new team in town. But their loyalty has remained.
"We've gotten so much from them over the years," Anthony Garcia, 29, said. "All the championships, all the stressful games, it's like sticking with family. That's how I feel.
"You can't just stray away from family. That's what it feels like."
AP Photo/Brandon WadeDeMarco Murray has rushed for 100 yards in a Cowboys-record eight consecutive games.
The Cowboys are coming off their first loss since Week 1, while the Cardinals’ only loss was in Denver, where third-string quarterback Logan Thomas was forced into action.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on as the Cowboys and Cardinals duel for the NFC’s top seed.
More Murray, Less Problems
DeMarco Murray extended his 100-yard streak to eight games with his most efficient rushing game of the season Monday, despite a season-low 19 rushes. But Dallas looked elsewhere in short-yardage situations.
Dallas ran 14 plays with 3 yards or fewer to gain. Only two were rushing plays, and both resulted in first downs. On the 12 pass plays, the Cowboys went 3-of-10 passing with two sacks taken.
This season, the Cowboys have gained a first down on 81 percent of rushing attempts with 3-yards-or-fewer to gain, the highest rate in the league.
Arizona’s defense has held opponents to a 52 percent conversion rate with 3-yards-or-fewer to gain, the second-lowest rate in the league this season.
The Cardinals pressure the opposing quarterback on 35 percent of their attempts with 3 yards or fewer to gain, the third-highest percentage in the league.
Cardiac Cards Bring Pressure
Since defensive coordinator Todd Bowles joined the Cardinals prior to the 2013 season, Arizona has had the most blitz-happy defense in the league.
This season, the Cardinals have a league-high five interceptions when blitzing and are one of three teams with a negative touchdown-interception differential (minus-1) when blitzing.
The Cardinals not only bring pressure, but they bring it from deep. Arizona has blitzed a defensive back on a league-high 48 pass attempts this season.
Opposing quarterbacks have completed only 38 percent of their attempts when the Cardinals send a defensive back on a blitz, tied for the second-lowest percentage in the league.
Ellington Evolves into Every-Down Back
After averaging 10.5 touches per game last season, Andre Ellington has 20-plus touches in each of the Cardinals’ last five games.
The Arizona running back has 31 percent of the Cardinals’ yards from scrimmage this season. Ellington is one of five running backs to record more than one-quarter of his team’s yards from scrimmage.
Ellington, Le’Veon Bell and Matt Forte are the only three backs this season with at least 400 rush yards and 250 receiving yards.
Taylor said he suffered the injury when he was running down a punt.
“Kinda out of nowhere,” he said.
His calf is getting better already, Taylor said, but the second-year pro is taking it week-by-week. He’s not concerned about the injury lingering.
Taylor is on pace to top his output last season, when he finished with 186 total yards -- 115 rushing and 71 receiving. Through seven games, he has 103 total -- 63 rushing and 40 receiving. He’s scored three touchdowns this season, two coming against Oakland in Week 7, but Taylor didn’t have a carry or a reception Sunday against Philadelphia.
The timing isn’t ideal for Taylor, who grew up in Mansfield, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Coupled with a return home, Taylor’s production will be curtailed for as long as he’s out.
“It’s annoying,” he said. “You want to be out there on the field. That was definitely annoying.”
I've crunched the numbers. I've watched the film. I've studied the matchups. And here's my main concern leading up to Sunday's big NFC showdown between the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys: Hey Jer, just how secure are your goalposts inside AT&T Stadium?
It doesn't happen very often in the corporatized and indemnified No Fun League, but the last time I saw NFL fans actually storm a field and tear down the goalposts was Sept. 7, 1997, in Tempe, Arizona. Looking back now, I wonder if that was the classic Hollywood body swap, "changeup" moment; the one that forever altered the course of these two franchises and, 17 seasons later, brought us to Sunday's duel for NFC supremacy.
Heading into that 1997 game between these former NFC East "rivals," the Cowboys' dynasty had been on a seven-year streak, winning 13 games in a row against the sad-sack Cardinals. Down 22-7 in the third quarter and getting thunderously booed by their own fans, somehow the Cardinals and quarterback Kent Graham (who had blown an 18-point lead the week before) rallied back to win 25-22 in overtime on a 20-yard field goal from Kevin Butler. Afterward, it seemed like all 71,000 fans instantly flooded the Sun Devil Stadium field and took out seven years of frustration on those poor goalposts. They never stood a chance.
Before that game, the Cowboys had held a massive 46-22 head-to-head advantage against the Cardinals.
Since that fateful moment in the desert, the Cardinals have, dare I say -- swallow your coffee, wipe, breathe -- gotten the better of this rivalry.
They expect to see the same Cowboys' offense regardless.
"They're not going to change," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "It's not like they're all of a sudden going to go to the read option.
The Cowboys wouldn't commit to starting Romo on Sunday. He didn't go through their jog-through on Wednesday, coach Jason Garrett said, and will continue going through rehab. Garrett labeled Romo's status as a day-to-day situation.
Romo was hurt in the third quarter of Dallas' loss Monday night when he took a knee to his surgically-repaired back from Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson. Romo left the game but later returned.
Garrett said Romo's injury Monday night was not related to his offseason back surgery, clarifying that it was a direct result of Robinson's hit.
Asked Wednesday how he was holding up, Romo reponsded: "Oh, a box of chocolates over here."
He had a CT scan Wednesday, but said on a conference call with Arizona reporters that he's also taking it day by day.
"I think you have to just take it each day and see what you can do more the next day," Romo said.
Whether he plays Sunday will come down to his tolerance for pain and his physical abilities, Garrett said.
"He has to be able to move around and do the things he needs to do to play in a game," Garrett said. "Hopefully, as the week goes on, we'll get a better reading on how painful it is for him to be able to do what he needs to do and we'll make the right evaluation for him and for our team."
Romo said he can handle the pain. So, it'll come down how much he can do physically that will determine his status for Sunday.
If Romo can't go, Arizona will face Brandon Weeden, who saw his first action of the season Monday night during a short stint in place of Romo. He completed 4 of 6 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.
"The one thing about Brandon, he does have a really, really strong arm," Arians said. "He can get it way down the field, as does Tony.
"There's nothing changing as far as who the quarterback is."
This game has the makings of a primetime matchup. The Cardinals are currently 6-1, their best start since 1974, and are sitting atop the NFC. The Cowboys are 6-2 and tied for second in the conference. Each leads their respective divisions.
And just because of the magnitude of the game leads Arians to believe he'll see Romo on the field Sunday.
"Oh, I would think 100 (percent)," Arians said. "He's not going to miss this game. It's too big. He's a heck of a competitor. He showed it coming back in that game."
TEMPE, Ariz. -- After his game-winning score Sunday against the Eagles, rookie receiver John Brown broke out his touchdown dance.
And on Wednesday, it was still a topic of discussion.
It’s the Peanut Butter Jelly. He learned it when he was 12, living outside Miami. It was made famous by the rapper Trick Daddy.
“I was good at it,” Brown said Wednesday. “I wanted to see if I still had it.”
His family in attendance on Sunday gave him a hard time about not knowing how to dance anymore.
He wanted to show them.
“That’s one of my best dance moves,” he said.
He didn’t prepare. He just broke out in dance on live TV. His quarterback didn’t see it until watching the game film Monday.
“He’s got some moves,” Carson Palmer said. “He didn’t learn those from me, that’s for sure. That must be a Florida thing. I think that’s where he learned it and he looked good doing it.”
In other news ...
Kent Somers of azcentral.com writes about Patrick Peterson being cleared.
Bob McManaman of azcentral.com writes about Tony Romo's injured back.
Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona writes about Peterson passing the concussion protocol and the Cowboys' success.
Chris Chase of USA Today dives into Arizona currently holding home-field advantage.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com writes that the Caridnals and Cowboys feed their backs.
Kyle Odegard of azcardinals.com writes about Peterson returning to practice.