The Dallas Cowboys' beleaguered defense played well. Kyle Orton mostly looked like he was worth all of the money that owner Jerry Jones gave him two years ago. And the Cowboys still found a way to lose in the most painful way possible.
The Philadelphia Eagles are NFC East champions after outlasting the Cowboys 24-22. Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin picked off Orton with under two minutes left to seal the victory. Philadelphia will host New Orleans in the wild-card round next Saturday night.
The story almost writes itself. Removing Tony Romo from the equation did not remove the Romo-like ending to the season. But that's an unfair way to look at things.
The Eagles deserve a ton of credit for winning 10 games in a season where many predicted they would come in last place. Nick Foles did not play well for most of Sunday's game, holding the ball too long and looking rattled by Dallas' pass rush. But the Eagles put together a 60-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter when they absolutely needed it, and the Eagles' defense finished the job.
Orton finished with 358 yards, but the Cowboys couldn't overcome three turnovers. After the game, coach Jason Garrett lauded his team's fight and effort. But a third straight 8-8 season should be seen as a severe disappointment. The Cowboys have now missed the playoffs in four straight years.
Yes, the Cowboys played better than expected Sunday night. But it's not a good sign when you lose after one of your best defensive efforts of the year. It's also not good when you are looking for moral victories after losing at home in a "win-or-go home" game for the third straight year.
The Cowboys are stuck in neutral while they watch the rest of the NFC East take turns atop the division. Eagles coach Chip Kelly already has more division titles than Garrett. The Eagles' defense is being rebuilt on the fly. The Philly offense set a franchise record for touchdowns with Foles at the helm. Kelly's offense should only look better when he gets more players that fit what he does.
Garrett is 29-27 as Dallas' head coach. Team owner Jerry Jones has strongly supported Garrett publicly, although the status of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin remains up in the air.
Dallas shuffles the deck and changes opponents every year, but the end result remains the same.