Emmitt Smith crossed the 18,000-yard barrier Sunday — his 67 yards gave him 18,050 in his soon-to-be Hall of Fame career — but it was the two touchdowns Smith scored that were the most important for the Cardinals in their 17-14 win over the New York Giants at Sun Devil Stadium.
But both times, the Cards were inside the Giants 5-yard line, so could it have been surprising Smith would find his way to six points?
“Down there, you have to be cutthroat,” said Smith, who has rushed for 162 touchdowns in his career. “There isn’t time for a whole lot of shaking and baking. . . . You have to have a nose for the end zone. I think I have had a nose for the end zone for a long time.”
Smith also had 52 yards rushing after halftime, when the Cardinals took control. He would have had more, but on a fourth-and-1 try in the fourth quarter on the Giants 26, Smith dropped the handoff.
“That was one that got away,” Smith said. “Thank God we got a victory.”
For a second straight game, the Cards used seven offensive linemen. Anthony Clement replaced L.J. Shelton at times at right tackle, but this time, Cameron Spikes filled in for Reggie Wells at left guard instead of playing on the right side.
Like last week, coach Dennis Green said it was the choice of offensive line coach Everett Lindsay and Lindsay’s desire to reward hard work in practice.
“It’s better than sitting on the sideline,” Clement said. “I’ll take whatever they give me right now, one play, one series.”
Said Shelton, “It’s not conventional, but we are winning.”
Quarterback Josh McCown made a key scramble for a second straight week, barreling headfirst to gain 6 yards on third-and-4 with less than a minute to go in the first half. The play gained a first down at the Giants 24 and set up Arizona’s first touchdown.
But McCown slammed helmet-to-helmet with Giants safety Gibril Wilson, a violent collision that snapped McCown’s head back and sent Wilson out of the game.
“They waved for an injury timeout and I’m saying, ‘I’m all right.’ I was standing at least,” McCown said. “Then I look over and he was down, and I thought I can’t go out now because I knocked him down and I’ve never hurt anybody before.”
The Giants are reeling after losing three of four, but the offensive line ended up with most of the blame after Kurt Warner was sacked six times after seven sacks last week.
“It’s very difficult to be the quarterback when you hardly ever get your back foot down,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
Coughlin was so frustrated that he called a shocking fake punt on his own 35 with 6:10 left and the Giants down just three points. Punter Jeff Feagles’ pass fell incomplete.
“It was something we had done over and over in practice,” Coughlin said. “We don’t get the ball thrown well.”
It didn’t matter, though, because the Cardinals gave the ball right back when Smith fumbled his fourth-and-1 carry on the ensuing possession.
Karl Williams had his longest punt return of the season, a 38-yarder to set up the Cardinals’ game-winning touchdown. . . . Penalties killed the Giants. New York was whistled 10 times for 97 yards, compared to three for 15 for Arizona. “I thought we had a great chance to win had we not penalized ourselves over and over,” Coughlin said.