Arizona at Dallas

Breaking down the Cardinals and Cowboys

Focal Point: Aikman vs. Plummer

Inside the Cardinals playbook

Big turnaround in Big D

'Boys wary of cardiac Cards

Playoffs no mirage in desert

  Wednesday, Dec. 30 8:57pm ET
Cowboys fear Snake's bite
Associated Press

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas players don't even call Jake Plummer by his real name anymore. It's the "Snake" this and the "Snake" that.

 Jake Plummer
 Jake Plummer has made a habit of leading dramatic comebacks.

The Arizona Cardinals quarterback, who recently signed a $29.4 million contract, spooked the Cowboys badly the last time the teams met. The next thing the Cowboys knew they were ahead only 35-28, and the Snake was at the door.

His last pass of the game was intended for Rob Moore, who was openly mugged by cornerback Kevin Smith in the end zone. No flag. Game over.

"We couldn't get out of town fast enough," Smith said. "The Snake gave us a scare. Deion Sanders got hurt, and we had a little panic in our secondary. We've settled down, and we're playing much better now."

Smith added that Plummer "is doing very well right now. He has a knack for making things happen. The key for us is to keep him in the pocket."

Linebacker Randall Godfrey said Dallas will have to do a better job of containing Plummer, who is known for beating the pass rush with rollouts.

"We know what the Snake can do now a lot better than we did in the first game," said linebacker Randall Godfrey. "It's going to take everybody on our defense to contain him."

Dallas beat Arizona 38-10 in the season opener at Texas Stadium, and Plummer hit only 14 of 33 passes for 166 yards. He had 314 yards passing in the second half alone against the Cowboys the second time he faced them.

Kevin Mathis, who didn't play against Arizona the second time around because of a broken arm, will start at left cornerback if Sanders doesn't play, and Smith will be at right cornerback.

"The defensive backs are starting to play better," Mathis said. "We are getting where we trust each other when it comes time to make plays."

Even Dallas' offensive players are aware of the dangerous Plummer.

"We've got to find a way to contain the Snake,"' guard Nate Newton said.

Dallas coach Chan Gailey at least calls Plummer by his name.

"He's one of the most dangerous players I've seen once he gets out of the pocket," Gailey said. "He just runs around and makes things happen."

Plummer has engineered six fourth-quarter comebacks this year. The Cowboys were a survivor in November, barely.

Smith said playoff experience will be the big difference when the teams meet for the third time this season Saturday in the NFC wild-card round.

"A lot of them (the Cardinals) haven't been in the playoffs, so they'll be excited," Smith said. "Most of us have been in the playoffs and know how to handle it."

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