TEMPE, Ariz. -- The last time Troy Aikman suffered a concussion at Sun Devil Stadium, it came in the final quarter. Dallas lost.
Yesterday, Aikman suffered a concussion on the game's opening drive. The Cowboys won. That's the difference between the 1-15 Cowboys of 1989, who couldn't win with Aikman, and the team of 1994, which can win without him. Dallas overcame Aikman's absence with a strong finish from Rodney Peete to rally for a 28-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
"We gave up the biggest turnover in the game in Troy Aikman," said coach Barry Switzer. "And we won without having anything given to us."
Aikman, who managed to stay on the field for one play -- and one touchdown pass -- after enduring a massive blow to the chin from Wilber Marshall, said he will play next week in Cincinnati. Peete's job de
scription prevents him from saying when he will play again. When the time comes, the Cowboys can only hope for a re-Peete performance.
After a slow start -- three series without a first down -- Peete com
pleted 12 of 19 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
"I think it was really important for me to have a game like that," said Peete. "My teammates have confidence in me, but you never really know until you do it in the heat of battle."
It doesn't get much hotter than the Cardinals' swarming, blitzing defense. It was ugly early after Aikman's exit. His 15-yard pass to Alvin Harper put Dallas (6-1) on the board, but the Cardinals (2-5) took a 14-7 lead just before halftime. Aikman's former backup, Steve Beuerlein, was outperforming the current understudy, although Arizona's offense was mostly a ground attack.
The Cardinals tied the score when Beuerlein dived across the goal line from a yard out, one play after hitting Gary Clark for a 45-yard gain down the right sideline.
Arizona took the lead in the second quarter on a 97-yard drive. Arizona would have had to settle for a field goal, but Charles Haley's personal foul on Beuerlein after a third-down pass gave the Cardinals first-and-goal at the 4. Ron Moore scored on the next play with 1:56 to go in the half.
Kevin Williams' 46-yard kickoff return got Dallas into Arizona territory, and the Peete-led Cowboys moved the ball for the first time. Emmitt Smith's 23-yard run was the key play before Michael Irvin made a sensational 5-yard touchdown catch, tipping the ball with his right hand and pulling it in before going out of the end zone. Chris Boniol's extra point made it 14-14 at halftime.
Dallas missed a chance to break the 14-14 deadlock in the third quarter when Boniol's 43-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Eric Hill. After an exchange of punts, Arizona got its offense rolling one final time.
On third-and-goal from the 9, Beuerlein threw to Ricky Proehl on the right side, who slipped out of Darrin Smith's tackle, neatly avoided the sideline and dived for the end zone. The officials ruled it a successful try, and Arizona held a 21-14 lead with 14:52 left.
"I thought our offense was going to win a game for us like the defense did last week," Arizona coach Buddy Ryan said. "When our offense scores 21 points, we have to win the ballgame."
It was the most scored by Ryan's team this season. It was not enough.