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Cards lay past, Cowboys to rest

With a pressure-proof performance that carried the Arizona Cardinals to the franchise's first post-season victory since 1947, an unfazed Jake Plummer burned the heavily favored Cowboys with two touchdown passes in a runaway 20-7 NFC wild-card victory Saturday.

The Cardinals, in the playoffs for the first time since 1982, meet the NFC Central champion Minnesota Vikings Sunday.

"I got tired of hearing about the past," said Plummer, 19-for-36 for 213 yards. "The past is the past. You live in the future. Now, we are ready to go into the future."

The Cardinals last won a playoff game when they were in Chicago and beat Philadelphia 28-21 in the NFL Championship Game. They last made the playoffs in 1982, a strike year, and 1975 before that, both times in St. Louis.

The Cowboys, who have been in the playoffs 23 years and won three Super Bowls in the 1990s, hadn't lost at home in the playoffs since 1983. And they beat the Cardinals twice in the regular season.

But Plummer showed no playoff nerves in the third meeting.

Arizona, which led 10-0 at halftime, shocked the Cowboys to start the second half on a 74-yard run by Adrian Murrell, followed by a 3-yard touchdown pass by Plummer to Larry Centers. The run was the longest against the Cowboys in their 52-game playoff history.

On Arizona's second possession, Plummer hit Frank Sanders with a 59-yard pass to position the Cardinals for their first playoff touchdown in 16 years. Facing third and 8, Plummer caught the Cowboys in a blitz and shoveled a short pass to Murrell, who scored from the 12.

"I thought Jake got sacked," coach Vince Tobin said. "I didn't even see him flip the ball. The shovel pass was huge for us to get started on top like that."

Plummer said the TD made the Cards realize it could be their day.

"They had a blitz going and I knew if Adrian could get a crease he could walk in and he did," Plummer said.

Arizona made it 10-0 when Chris Jacke, who won the Cards' past three games with field goals, made a 37-yarder with 19 seconds left in the half. Jacke also made a 46-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter after Aeneas Williams' second interception of Troy Aikman, who was 11-2 as a starter in playoff games.

Aikman was sacked four times, twice by LB Jamir Miller (who had 12 tackles), and intercepted three times, twice by Williams.

"We declared war on the state of Texas," Williams said. "We knew there would be some casualties, but we didn't care. We endured to the end. That's what we had to do _ never, ever give up."

Arizona's defense so confused Aikman that he stormed to the sideline after one series and shouted, "I can't find anyone open."

Dallas wide receiver Patrick Jeffers said, "We felt they knew our routes before we ran them."

Aikman completed only 22 of 49 passes for 191 yards and Emmitt Smith ran for only 74 yards on 16 carries.

"Everyone is disappointed," Aikman said. "It's not the outcome we were expecting. They just clamped down on us."

Dallas coach Chan Gailey said Arizona deserved the win.

"Arizona made big plays and we didn't," Gailey said. "The defense hung in there, but we had too many dropped passes and penalties to hurt them on offense.

"I'm sorry my first year had to end like this."

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