Eagles 20, Cowboys 7

Tony Romo was in the locker room dealing with a passing hand

that wasn’t broken, but was swelling.

At the same time, the New York Giants were polishing off a

victory that rendered the result of this game meaningless, and

turned their game against the Cowboys in New York next weekend into

a battle for the NFC East title.

So Jerry Jones left his midfield viewing booth and marched right

to coach Jason Garrett on the sideline. Neither would give a clear

explanation of their conversation, but it’s obvious how the chat

went considering Romo didn’t return and oft-injured running back

Felix Jones soon joined him on the sideline.

Missing those crucial players, and lacking intensity, the

Cowboys came within 7 seconds of being shut out at home for the

first time in 20 years, losing 20-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles on

Saturday.

”You have to step back and understand what the situation is,”

Garrett said. ”We need to be as healthy as we can be next

week.”

New York’s victory eliminated the Eagles from the playoffs and

meant the Cowboys couldn’t clinch the division title with a win.

Dallas could’ve still been playing for a wild-card backup plan, but

was clearly more concerned about getting ready for the ”win and

you’re in” route to the playoffs, especially after Romo banged his

hand on the helmet of a defender.

Garrett said the club had decided earlier in the week who would

and wouldn’t play if the Giants won. Garrett said Romo’s injury

added a new wrinkle.

The question of why Jones decided to personally go over the plan

with Garrett again, and in light of the Romo injury, wasn’t really

answered.

”I did want to go and communicate real good and we did

communicate real good,” Jones said. ”These are decisions made by

Jason, ultimately.”

Michael Vick threw touchdown passes on his first drive and just

before halftime, which was all the scoring the Eagles would need.

They added a pair of field goals in the second half, while their

defense prevented an offense powered by Stephen McGee, Sammy Morris

and Chauncey Washington from sustaining any drives.

Dallas’ only points came after a blocked punt set up McGee on

the Philadelphia 16-yard line with 19 seconds left. He ran for 12

yards, then hit Miles Austin for a 4-yard touchdown pass to avoid

the first shutout since November 2003, and the first at home since

September 1991, also against Philadelphia.

”I just feel like we dodged a bullet – Romo is healthy, that’s

critical to us,” Jones said. ”I certainly agree with how we

played the game tonight, and who played what, when and how they

played – complete agreement with it.”

Dallas (8-7) lost for the third time in four games, guaranteeing

another losing record after Thanksgiving. If the Cowboys end up

missing the playoffs, this flop at the finish will loom large all

offseason. Of course, if they win the division, it’ll only be a

footnote.

The upcoming week will be filled with all sorts of similar

high-stakes ramifications that will be riding on the finale for

both Dallas and New York. Anticipating huge interest – and high

ratings – that game has been moved to NBC’s prime-time Sunday night

showcase.

”If at the beginning of the year you told us we would have a

chance to win the division in Week 17, we would have jumped at

it,” tight end Jason Witten said. ”We will have to play our best

football. It’s on the road. It’s going to be tough. But that’s the

environment you have to take. The Giants have been in these

situations, too. It’s going to be a huge challenge.”

When this game kicked off, the Giants were up by only six points

midway through the fourth quarter, so the Cowboys and Eagles still

had a lot to play for.

Philadelphia got the ball first and Vick picked up where he left

off the last time these teams met, cruising 80 yards in eight plays

for a 7-0 lead. Then the Eagles snuffed Romo, forcing a punt from

around midfield.

On the final play of that series, Romo rushed a third-down pass

to avoid a sack. On his follow-through, he smacked his passing hand

on Jason Babin’s helmet. That’s when things got about as

interesting as they’d be the rest of the afternoon.

The drama began with Jones leaving his midfield viewing booth to

chat with Garrett. He returned to his booth about the same time

Romo returned to the sideline.

Romo couldn’t grip the ball or take a snap, so he got his hand

and wrist wrapped. While he was trading his helmet for a baseball

cap, team vice president Stephen Jones arrived on the sideline and

spoke with trainers. Felix Jones then joined Romo as being done for

the day.

McGee – who moved up from third-stringer to backup when Jon

Kitna went on injured reserve – took over for Romo and went 24 of

38 for 182 yards, with four runs for 28 yards.

McGee beat the Eagles in last season’s finale, but he struggled

to even sustain drives this time. It didn’t help that his running

backs were Morris (pulled from retirement before last week’s game)

and Washington (signed off the street this week).

”It took me a little while to get comfortable,” McGee said.

”I don’t get very many reps, basically never in a real game. I

felt like I made progress through the game.”

Philadelphia (7-8) won its third straight, giving the preseason

”Dream Team” and midseason nightmare the chance to break even if

it can beat the Redskins at home in its finale next weekend. The

Eagles also swept the season series against the Cowboys for the

first time since 2006, having clobbered Dallas 34-7 in October.

”If we had gotten into the playoffs we would have definitely

done some damage,” Vick said. ”It’s unfortunate we didn’t. That’s

the game of football. We made some mistakes early (this season) and

got behind in the win-loss column. But we’re just happy we’re

finishing strong.”

The defense sure is. Philadelphia has allowed just 36 points and

683 yards over the last three games, with 16 sacks.

”I think it took a little time to gel,” said defensive lineman

Cullen Jenkins, one of the offseason additions whose arrival raised

expectations. ”I guess it took longer than we anticipated. We just

didn’t get the job done. You can make all the excuses in the world,

but they really don’t mean anything. At the end of the season when

you look at our final record, there’s not going to be asterisk by

it. You just have to own up to it. We let a lot of opportunities

get away from us early. All we can do now is control what we do in

the future.”

Vick was 18 of 32 for 293 yards, with the touchdowns going to

Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. Jason Avant nearly had another TD,

but fumbled inches before touching the pylon, resulting in a

touchback for the Cowboys.

DeSean Jackson caught five passes for 90 yards, and ran for 27

yards on two end arounds, both on consecutive plays.

Alex Henery kicked field goals of 43 and 51 yards for the

Eagles’ only points in the second half.

”They’re disappointed we don’t have a shot at the playoffs,”

coach Andy Reid said. ”At the same time I was pleased with the

energy they brought to the football field. They wanted to dominate

and play aggressive football. Nobody was hanging their heads.”