The Dallas Cowboys season will be decided next Sunday, New Year’s Day, in a winner-take-all battle for the NFC East title at the New York Giants.
The bad news is they might be without quarterback Tony Romo, who suffered a bruised right hand in the first quarter of Saturday’s 20-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in front of a crowd of 84,834, the smallest in the three-year history of Cowboys Stadium.
Next week's game has been moved from noon to 7:30 on NBC.
Romo suffered the injury when he hit his right throwing hand on the helmet of Eagles defensive end Jason Babin on the Cowboys first series of the game. He was taken the locker room for x-rays, which came back negative. He came back to the sideline and tried to throw, but his hand was swollen and badly bruised.
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The Cowboys decided to play it safe, keeping him on the bench and letting backup Stephen McGee continue to run the things the rest of the way.
"It looks like his (injury) was more on the back of the hand," coach Jason Garrett said. "Looked like he could grip it. We decided the best thing to do was to leave Stephen in the game."
Ironically, a 29-14 victory by the Giants against the New York Jets in the early game, which came to conclusion just after the Romo injury, eliminated the Eagles and made the outcome at Cowboys Stadium moot.
At that point, the Cowboys (8-7) were facing the Giants (8-7) for the NFC East title next Sunday regardless of the outcome at Cowboys Stadium.
The Cowboys also took the opportunity to rest running back Felix Jones, who had missed practice all week with a tight hamstring. He played the first quarter, but was pulled for precautionary reasons. The Cowboys weren’t so lucky with linebacker Sean Lee, who left the game in the second half with a tight hamstring, putting his status for the Giants game into question. Montrae Holland injured his elbow.
"We need to be as healthy as we can be going into next week's game," Garrett said. "We're pointing toward that."
Romo’s injured wrist is the big question for the Cowboys.
He came into the game playing the best football of his career with 22 passing touchdowns and four interceptions over the past 10 games. Owner Jerry Jones said it would be one of the biggest disappointments of his career if the Cowboys didn’t make the playoffs with Romo healthy and playing so well.
That was before Romo was sandwiched by Babin and end Trent Cole on a third-down incompletion with 9 minutes, 57 seconds left in the first quarter. Romo finished 0-2 passing, marking the first time in his career he didn’t complete a pass in a game he started.
It’s safe to say the Cowboys would have had trouble beating the Eagles even if the game meant something and they had Romo the entire way.
The Eagles beat the Cowboys 34-7 earlier in the season. It was evident in the first series of the game that the Cowboys defense still hadn’t solved quarterback Michael Vick and the Eagles offense.
They took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards on eight plays for a touchdown. Vick hit Riley Cooper for 28 yards before connecting with Brent Celek for a 13-yard score.
The Eagles made it 14-0 at halftime with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Vick to Jeremy Maclin.
The Eagles began the season 4-8 and now have won three consecutive games. However, it is too little, too late.
Alex Henery added field goals of 43 and 51 yards.
Dallas avoided a shutout when McGee threw a 4-yard touchdown to Miles Austin with 7 seconds left in the game.