ARLINGTON, Texas — Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles completed a worst-to-first turnaround under rookie coach Chip Kelly.
The Dallas Cowboys are stuck in second place and going home early again, and nobody can blame Tony Romo for the final crushing loss Sunday night.
Former Arizona Wildcat Foles threw two touchdown passes, NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy had 131 yards and a receiving score and the Eagles beat the Cowboys 24-22 in a win-or-go-home game for the NFC East title.
The Cowboys (8-8), with Kyle Orton filling in two days after Romo had back surgery, lost to a division rival with a playoff berth on the line for the third straight year.
The Eagles (10-6) will host New Orleans in a wild-card game Saturday night.
Dallas trailed 24-16 when Orton threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant with 3:50 remaining. Orton went back to Bryant for the 2-point conversion, but Cary Williams dove to punch the ball away.
The Cowboys got another chance with a stop from the league’s worst defense, but Orton’s pass was intercepted by Brandon Boykin on the first play to seal the win.
“We kept fighting. We believed in each other,” said Foles, who was 17 of 26 for 263 yards after throwing for only 80 in a 17-3 loss to Dallas at home. “When the offense was struggling, the defense picked us up.”
McCoy finished with 1,607 yards and became the first Philadelphia running back to win the rushing title since Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren in 1949.
“For all the accolades and the stats, if we didn’t win today, none of that means nothing,” McCoy said.
Romo was the quarterback for losses the past two seasons to the New York Giants and Washington — and against the Eagles in the same scenario in 2008.
The Cowboys were down 10-0 early in the second quarter and never led, but still found a way to make it interesting without Romo and defensive leader Sean Lee, who was out with a sprained neck against the league’s No. 2 offense.
Regardless, Dallas has finished 8-8 in all three of coach Jason Garrett’s full seasons, and is 136-136 since the start of 1997. The Cowboys are only the third team in NFL history to have three straight 8-8 records.
“You feel a tremendous sense of pride about how the team played, how they fought, how they scratched, how they clawed, how they battled,” Garrett said. “But having said that, we didn’t get the job done.”
Orton, who was 30 of 46 for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first start in two years, was the first Dallas starter not named Romo in an elimination game since a playoff loss to Carolina with Quincy Carter under center during the 2003 season.
The Cowboys weren’t shy about throwing without Romo.
Trailing by one, Dallas tried to pass on fourth-and-1 from the Philadelphia 40 early in the fourth quarter, and Connor Barwin knocked down Orton’s throw to DeMarco Murray, who was open in the flat.
That decision came after Garrett called a timeout moments before the Eagles would have been called for a false start on fourth down from the Dallas 1. The defense bailed him out by stuffing Foles on a sneak.
After the Cowboys’ failed fourth-down try, Foles led a steady march to Bryce Brown’s 6-yard run for an eight-point lead with 6:09 left.
The Eagles won the division for the first time since 2010 a year after going 4-12, which led to Andy Reid’s departure and the hiring of Kelly and his fast-paced offense from Oregon.
But the defense came up with the biggest play when the Eagles couldn’t run out the clock. Foles tried to throw on third down and had to slide when nobody was open.
The Cowboys were about 40 yards from field goal range and trailing by two with 1:49 remaining, but Orton threw behind Miles Austin, just as he did on his other interception that led to Brent Celek’s 14-yard scoring catch for a 17-7 lead late in the first half.
Cowboys K Dan Bailey had three field goals and made his last 21 of the season. He was 28 of 30. ... McCoy had 134 yards from scrimmage and finished with 2,146 to break Brian Westbrook’s team record of 2,104 from 2007. ... Murray had 51 yards rushing and finished with 1,124, the most for Dallas since Emmitt Smith had 1,203 in 2000. ... Eagles WR DeSean Jackson had 28 yards for No. 2 on the franchise’s single-season receiving yardage list with 1,332. Mike Quick had 1,409 in 1983.