TEMPE, Arizona (Ticker) -- The Dallas Cowboys succeeded in shutting down David Boston, but linebacker Ronald McKinnon accounted for an unexpected touchdown for the Arizona Cardinals. McKinnon, Despite playing with a cast on his right thumb, McKinnon scored on a 24-yard interception return off a deflection and Michael Pittman added a one-yard scoring run as the Cardinals recorded a 17-10 win over the Cowboys in a matchup of NFC East rivals.
McKinnon grabbed a loose ball that deflected off the hands of running back Troy Hambrick and raced down the right side into the end zone, giving Arizona a 7-3 lead. It was his first career touchdown and his first interception of the season.
"No doubt (it gave us a spark)," McKinnon said. "Any time the defense makes a play, it excites the whole team."
"I heard Emmitt (Smith) talking this week about how well Ron McKinnon has been playing this year," Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said. "He's all heart. He's the kind of guy who embodies what I want on this team."
After Dallas (4-10) went ahead on a 45-yard pass from rookie Quincy Carter to Reggie Swinton, Pittman completed an eight-play, 76-yard drive with his TD, giving Arizona a 14-10 lead with 4:52 left in the first half. The score was set up by a 58-yard pass from Jake Plummer to Frank Sanders that gave the Cardinals (6-8) a first down at the 1.
"It was a run-throw option with Jackie (Harris) and he was bottled up in there," Carter said. "And there was no way I could get the ball to him because he was covered pretty good."
Plummer was 17-of-31 for 144 yards and Carter threw for 176 yards and a touchdown, completing 16 of his 27 passes. He also fumbled at the 1 on fourth down early in the game when he ran to his right and was hit by defensive tackle Mao Tosi. Carter dropped the ball and it went out of bounds in the end zone for a touchback.
Pittman had just 58 yards on 14 carries and Boston was held to just 26 yards on three catches. It was the second straight week the third-year receiver did not have at least 100 yards receiving after reaching that mark eight times this season.
The contest marked the final time the two teams will play each other twice in a season as the Cardinals will move to the NFC South in 2002 when the league will be divided into four divisions.
"That's sad," Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith said. "I have had a wonderful time out here."
"It's a wonderful feeling to beat the Cowboys for the last time we're going to be in the NFC East with them," Arizona coach Dave McGinnis said.
Jon Hilbert opened the scoring for the Cowboys with just five seconds left in the first on a 27-yard field goal, completing a drive that was set up by a 43-yard punt return by Swinton to the Arizona 23.
Swinton had 175 total yards for the game, including 72 yards receiving on just three catches.
The Cowboys outgained the Cardinals in net yards, 343-209.
"We made too many mistakes to win this football game," Dallas coach Dave Campo said. "We had two interceptions that led to 10 points. You can't make those kind of mistakes and win."
"Our 'D' just played great," Plummer said. "They kept us in the ballgame. The offense did their part when they needed to but the defense gets this win this week."