Tony Romo saved the season with a fourth-down play in Week 16. Kyle Orton nearly performed the encore Sunday.
Instead, it was an all-too-familiar ending for the Cowboys.
Orton’s second interception, which came with 1:43 remaining, gave the Cowboys their third consecutive 8-8 season. Orton’s record, appropriately enough, fell to 35-35.
“I thought it was ordained, that it was going to be our time,” Cowboys owner Jerry 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.
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“Now, he’d be the first to tell you that none of that is any good if you don’t win. But we had a real challenge here tonight.”
With Romo watching from home after undergoing back surgery Friday to repair a herniated disk, Orton kept the Cowboys in it, even if he didn’t win it.
He completed 30 of 46 passes for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I thought Kyle played really well in this ballgame,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “There were a couple of plays in the game he would love to have back, but I thought he did a heck of a job.
“He had a great week of practice. He was prepared. He was confident. The guys responded to him. He made a ton of big plays in this game over and over again. He made some great decisions. At the end of it, he gave us a great chance to win the game.”
The Cowboys, 61/2-point underdogs, trailed by eight points with 6:09 remaining.
Orton fist-pumped and let out a yell after throwing a 32-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant on fourth-and-9 with 3:50 remaining. It drew the Cowboys within a 2-point conversion of the Eagles. But Orton’s pass intended for Bryant — on the same play the Cowboys used on a 2-point conversion last year against Baltimore — didn’t stand a chance as the throw was off target and Cary Williams had Bryant blanketed.
Orton got another chance to play the part of unlikely hero after the Cowboys got the ball back with 1:49 remaining, needing only a field goal to win.
But Orton’s first pass, intended for Miles Austin, was intercepted by Brandon Boykin.
“I just threw a bad pass,” Orton said. “Miles ran a great route, same play we scored on the play before, just went to Miles this time and just threw it behind him. And the guy made a nice catch on the ball.”
Austin, who may have played his final game for the Cowboys, shared the blame.
“I ran a post,” said Austin, who had two catches for 22 yards. “I tried to work my man. I don’t know if the MIKE [linebacker] was out. I don’t know if he didn’t want to bury the throw because someone was in there.
“It was a little bit … I should have broken it out, to be honest. I tried to break it out. I wish I could have broken it out. Just an unfortunate deal.”
The Cowboys had 12 drives, with two red-zone opportunities. They had to settle for field goals after reaching the Philadelphia 26, 25 and 18.
“We really missed a few opportunities throughout the game, two interceptions, three turnovers and kicked some field goals when we had opportunities to go down and score touchdowns,” Orton said. “So we moved the ball pretty well but didn’t cash in when we needed to.”
The Cowboys were disappointed in the loss but not in how their backup quarterback played after signing him to a three-year, $10.5 million deal, with a $5 million signing bonus, as insurance before the 2012 season.
“All in all, he handled the situation well for not having played all year long,” Garrett said. “That is the kind of guy he is. That is the kind of pro he is. We are lucky to have him.”