(AP) Cowboys lose 3rd straight playoff-or-bust finale
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer
With or without Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys have been a bust in win-or-go-home regular season finales against NFC East opponents.
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.
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 right into the arms of cornerback Brandon Boykin.
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 span.
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.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has repeatedly said coach Jason Garret’s job status isn’t in jeopardy. Garrett took over midway through the 2010 season.
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.
Orton completed for 30 of 46 passes for 358 yards with two touchdowns in his first start in two years, taking the opening snap 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.
But there also were the two picks by Orton, the first leading to an Eagles touchdown.
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 try.
Philadelphia failed to get a first down after two rushes by McCoy and a scramble by Foles after McCoy fell down swinging out of the backfield for an apparent pass. The Eagles punted, but got the ball right back after Orton threw his interception.
Romo, the quarterback for those other heartbreaking finales, wasn’t even able to be at the stadium for the finale while recovering from surgery.
Early in the fourth quarter, when the Cowboys were down 17-16, they 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, for 35 yards and then 14 yards for the touchdown, though Bailey kicked a 44-yard field goal before halftime.
Orton threw a 17-yard TD midway through the second quarter to rookie tight end Gavin Escobar, who went airborne at the 3 over safety Nate Allen to dive into the end zone and get the Cowboys within 10-7.
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.