The Pokes had been in the same position the last two years, but lost to the Giants on the road in 2011 and to the Redskins on the road last year in the winner-take-all game. They were hoping since they were at home this year they could turn the tables and find a way to scratch out a win.
That possibility seemed less likely after Philadelphia blew out the Chicago Bears a week a herniated disc that required surgery late in the week, and you knew it would take a miracle for backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who hadn’t started a game in almost 2 ½ years, to engineer a victory for Dallas. The chances looked good late, but everything went down the tubes yet again with an interception or Orton on the first play of the last Dallas possession.
The Eagles won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. Dwayne Harris brought the kick out to the Dallas 23 and Orton and the offense went to work. Orton led the team down the field, but DeMarco Murray was hit and lost the ball at the Philly 23 and the drive ended.
Nick Foles brought the Eagle offense out for their first possession at that point. On the third play of the drive he hit Chris Polk for a 34-yard gain down to the Cowboy 36. The defense stiffened at that point and forced a 47-yard Alex Henery field goal attempt. The kick was good, capping a 7-play, 48-yard drive that consumed 3:35, and the visitors led 3-0 with 7:07 left in the first quarter.
The Cowboys began their next drive on the 20 and drove down to the Eagle 40 where the drive stalled. After a Chris Jones punt and an Eagle fair catch, Foles brought his offensive unit out at his 12. In a precision-like manner, the Eagles went on a 10-play, 88-yard TD drive that took 4:20, and after Henery’s extra point Dallas trailed 10-0.
Neither team was able get a first down on their next possession, but Dallas did get on the scoreboard on their possession after that. The drive started on the Dallas 34 and was 6 plays and took only 2:51. The score came on a 17-yard strike from Orton to Gavin Escobar with 8:16 left in the half. After Dan Bailey hit the extra point, the deficit was cut to 10-7.
Philadelphia managed one first down on their next possession before Dallas forced a punt.
They got the ball back on offense and began another drive that was looking good before an Orton pass bounced off the hands of Jason Witten and was intercepted and returned to the Cowboy 49. It took just two passes from Foles to Brent Celek over 34 seconds for the visitors to find the end zone for the second time. The first pass covered 35 yards and the TD pass was 14 yards. Henery nailed the extra point and the Eagles led 17-7 with 1:19 left in the first half.
Dallas got the ball at the 20 after a touchback with all three of their timeouts left to try to get back on the board before the intermission. Orton led an 8-play, 54-yard drive in 1:01 that culminated with a Bailey field goal with 18 seconds left in the half that brought the ‘Boys back to within a touchdown, at 17-10.
After the defense forced another three-and-out of the Eagles on the opening possession of the second half, the Cowboys began their first drive of the half at their 34. Orton moved the team down to the Eagle 25, but a pass into the end zone for Dez Bryant was well-defended and fell incomplete. Bailey hit a 43-yard field goal with 8:59 left in the quarter that brought the score to 17-13. The drive was a 9-play, 41-yard affair that took 4:50.
The Dallas defense gave up one first down on the next Philly possession, but on third down on the next series Foles was hit by Jason Hatcher and he fumbled and DeMarcus Ware recovered for Dallas at the Eagle 20, and had a golden opportunity to take the lead.
The offense struggled and managed to get only 2 yards in 3 plays, and 2:06 later Bailed hit a 26-yar field goal bringing the score to 17-16 with 5:38 left in the third quarter.
The teams then exchanged punts on the next two possessions, and LeSean McCoy returned the next Jones punt of 44 yards for 22 yards and had his team set up in excellent field position at their 48. Foles led the offense down the field quickly and appeared headed for another certain touchdown after they had first-and-goal at the 8. Dallas had a great goal line stand and turned the Eagles away at the 1 on fourth down.
The Cowboys moved the ball well and got into Philadelphia territory in the early stages of the fourth quarter, but inexplicably called a pass play on fourth-and-one. The pass was knocked down by Conner Barwin, and the Eagles took back over at their 40 with 11:48 left in the game. They took advantage of the field position and Bryce Brown ran into the end zone from the 6 with 6:09 left in the game. That ended an 11-play drive that took 5:37. After Henery added the extra point, his team led 24-16.
The Cowboys began their next drive at the 20 after a touchback, knowing they needed to find a way to manufacture a touchdown in order to have a chance to win the game. They moved
down the field and on a fourth-and-nine Orton hit Bryant. He broke a tackle and raced into the end zone with 3:50 left in the game. A two-point conversion pass by Orton fell incomplete and the Eagles still led by 24-22.
The ensuing kick by Bailey was returned out to the 16 by McCoy, and the stage was set for an exciting finish. Knowing they HAD to find a way to force a three-and-out in order to have a realistic chance to get the ball back and kick a winning field goal at the end, the defense did just that. DeVonte Holloman sacked Foles for a loss of 3, back to the 19 on third down, as the clock stopped at the two minute warning.
Jones punted away to Harris down to the Dallas 25 and he returned the ball up to the 32, giving the Cowboys one last attempt to pull off a victory. Unfortunately, on the first play of the possession, Orton threw short for an open Miles Austin and the ball was intercepted and returned to the Dallas 32 by Brandon Boykin, and after a couple of kneel downs by Foles, the Cowboys season was over.
The win moves Philly to 10-6, and sets them up to host the New Orleans Saints this coming Saturday night in a Wild Card game. The loss drops Dallas to 8-8 and ends their season with yet another missed opportunity to win the Division.
Coach Jason Garrett was disappointed with the outcome of the game when he met with the media, but he had great praise for backup Kyle Orton who started the game in Romo’s absence.
“I thought Kyle played very well in that game. I think there’s a couple of plays in that game that he’d love to have back, but I think if you look at the whole body of work, I just thought he did a heck of a job. He had a great week of practice, he was prepared, he was confident, and the guys responded to him. He made a ton of big plays in this game over and over and over again, throws down the field, I thought he made some great decisions in this game, and he gave us a hell of a chance to win the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t complete that two point play. All in all, he handled the situation really, really well for having not played all year long, and that’s the kind of guy he is and the kind of pro he is, and we’re lucky to have him.
Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones reiterated when he talked with the media after the game that he fully supports Garrett and the entire coaching staff and said he had no reason to believe that Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffen and his top assistant Rod Marinelli would not be back again next season to oversee the defense.
Jones also said he has invested a lot in Garrett through the years he has been with the team and wants to take advantage of that investment with all Garrett has learned during those years from the mistakes he has made. He added that he felt the team was “very close” to getting over
the hump and moving to the next level of play, pointing out that the last two seasons Dallas had been pounded by New York and Washington, but they were very close to getting to the next level in this game against the Eagles.
The bottom line is that the Cowboys have gone 8-8 the last three seasons under Jason Garrett when they had the talent to do much better than that. Arguably, part of the problem has been Dallas has had to live with a number of players who shouldn’t be starting in the NFL due to the salary cap situation the team has been in. HOPEFULLY, part of that problem can be resolved in the upcoming off-season. The big question is will they make the moves necessary and get to the next level by making the playoffs in 2014, or will they end up with another mediocre 8-8 season?