The Cowboys got the ball back with 1:49 to play, but on the first snap, Orton threw an interception to cornerback Brandon Boykin, and the Eagles (10-6) were able to escape for their first division title since 2010. Philadelphia will host the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s a real credit to those guys,” Eagles Coach Chip Kelly said. “They didn’t flinch. That was an interesting fourth quarter, to say the least, but this group just keeps battling and found a way. We also told them, it’s the same thing we say after every game — it’s one down, one to go.”
Orton started for Tony Romo, who was placed on injured reserve Friday. He completed 30 of 46 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice.
Romo was unable to play after having surgery Friday morning for a herniated disk in his back. The club had been holding out hope early in the week treatment and rest would allow the three-time Pro Bowl selection to go before determining the injury was too severe.
The Cowboys (8-8) lost for a third straight time in a Week 17 game that would have put them into the playoffs with a win. The Eagles, meantime, got 263 yards and two touchdown passes from quarterback Nick Foles and 131 yards on 27 carries from league rushing champion LeSean McCoy.
“Obviously our goal is to make the playoffs. A great opportunity to win the division here. I thought our team really fought and battled hard and overcame a lot of different obstacles to get to this point,” Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett said. “We had a great opportunity today and we just came up short.”
The Cowboys closed a touchdown deficit at halftime to 17-16 on two field goals by Dan Bailey. The first was good from 43 yards and came with 8:59 left in the third quarter. Dallas had reached the Eagles 21, but on second and four, running back DeMarco Murray lost four yards, and Orton threw incomplete to Bryant.
On the Eagles’ ensuing possession, Dallas defensive tackle Jason Hatcher converged on Foles, who fumbled. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware recovered at the Eagles 20, but Dallas managed just two yards and had to settle for Bailey’s 36-yard boot.
The Cowboys continued to rise up defensively shortly thereafter, stopping Foles on a sneak on fourth and goal from the 1 to keep the Eagles from adding to their advantage. Dallas then faced fourth and one on its next possession, but instead of handing off to Murray, the Cowboys elected to throw.
When Orton’s pass fell incomplete, the Eagles took over at their 40 and embarked on the decisive drive that ended when Brown dashed into the end zone from six yards for a 24-16 lead.
Bryant pulled the Cowboys within 24-22 when he caught a pass over the middle from Orton and broke away from Patrick Chung after stumbling briefly. The touchdown came with 3:50 to play, and Bryant was the target on the two-point try that Orton threw low and incomplete.
The Eagles were unable to run off much clock, and Dallas forced a punt to have one final chance at ending its Week 17 misery. But Orton’s errant throw sent the Cowboys home with questions about the job security of Garrett and the rest of the coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, whose unit finished last in the NFL.