Cowboys lose 3rd straight playoff-or-bust finale
With or without Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys have been a bust
in win-or-go-home regular season finales against NFC East
For the third consecutive season, this time at home with Kyle
Orton filling in for the injured Romo, the Cowboys lost their last
game with a chance to get into the playoffs.
”It’s unthinkable, really, to me to be sitting here three years
in a row and this game ends up putting us at .500 and this game
eliminates us from going to the playoffs,” Cowboys owner Jerry
Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes, one to NFL rushing
champion LeSean McCoy, and Philadelphia won its first NFC East
title since 2010 with a 24-22 victory Sunday night.
On the first play after Dallas got the ball back with 1:49 to
play, Orton threw an interception – a ball thrown behind intended
receiver Miles Austin into the arms of cornerback Brandon
That makes it a clean sweep for division opponents ousting the
distinctly average Cowboys (8-8), who are 136-136 overall since the
start of the 1997 season with only one playoff victory in that
Dallas lost at Washington in last year’s finale, and the New
York Giants in 2011. In the same situation five years ago, the
Cowboys finished the season with a 44-6 loss at Philadelphia.
Jones has repeatedly said before even before Sunday night’s game
that coach Jason Garret’s job status isn’t in jeopardy. Garrett
took over midway through the 2010 season.
”I’m not discussing that at all. This isn’t the time,” Jones
said after the game.
Asked about any conversations he has had with Jones, Garrett
said all his focus and energy had been on the final game.
”I’m not real concerned about that,” Garrett said. ”We all
put a lot of time, effort, energy and guts into this game, and it’s
a disappointing loss for us.”
The Cowboys were 1-7 when Garrett was promoted from offensive
coordinator to replace the fired Wade Phillips, then won five of
their last eight games. But the Cowboys have been 8-8 in each of
Garrett’s three full seasons, though in position for a playoff
berth until the final game each time.
”You just keep banging away,” he said. ”You just have got to
be persistent. You just got to keep believing and somehow, some way
Orton completed for 30 of 46 passes for 358 yards with two
touchdowns and two interceptions in his first start in two years,
two days after Romo had back surgery for an injury sustained a week
earlier in a victory at Washington when he threw a fourth-down
touchdown late that kept the Cowboys’ playoff hopes alive.
Romo, the quarterback for those other heartbreaking finales,
wasn’t even able to be at the stadium for the finale while
recovering from surgery.
Orton threw a 32-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant on a fourth-and-9
play with 3:50 left that got the Cowboys to 24-22. But Orton
couldn’t hook up with Bryant again on a failed 2-point conversion
Philadelphia couldn’t get a first down and punted, but got the
ball right back on the game-clinching pick.
Early in the fourth quarter, down 17-16, the Cowboys had
fourth-and-1 at the Philadelphia 40 when Orton rolled out and had
his pass batted down by Connor Barwin. The Eagles then went 60
yards in 11 plays and scored on Bryce Brown’s 6-yard run.
Dallas is the third team to finish three consecutive seasons
with 8-8 records, according to STATS. The others were
Houston/Tennessee (1996-98) and Green Bay (1983-85).
Dan Bailey kicked three field goals for the Cowboys, the last
midway a 36-yarder midway through the third quarter when Dallas
failed to get a first down after Foles was sacked and fumbled.
DeMarcus Ware recovered at the Eagles 20.
Just before halftime, Orton’s pass was picked off by Mychael
Kendricks near midfield. The Eagles scored on two passes from Foles
to tight-end Brent Celek, though Bailey kicked a 44-yard field goal
Cowboys rookie tight end Gavin Escobar had a 17-yard TD, going
airborne and diving over safety Nate Allen midway through the
DeMarco Murray fumbled at the end of the Cowboys’ opening drive
of the game, leading to Alex Henery’s 47-yard field goal that put
the Eagles ahead to stay.
”I thought it was going to be our time,” Jones said. ”I
thought Orton played as well as we could have expected him to play
and every bit as well as I thought he could play.”