While it may be tempting to blame Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kyle Orton for Sunday night’s season ender, it would be wrong to do so. The Philadelphia Eagles marched into AT&T Stadium having dispatched the Chicago Bears one week prior in a 54-11 throttling. Dallas, on the other hand, faced the Eagles without their defensive leader linebacker Sean Lee and the heart and soul of their offense, quarterback Tony Romo.
With 1:49 left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys trailed the Eagles 24-22 and needed only a field goal to win. Up to that point, Dallas’ last ranked defense had done their job holding the Eagles high scoring offense to 366 total yards while allowing only 24 points. Meanwhile the Cowboys offensive line was highly effective in keeping the Eagles pass rush pressure off of Orton giving up no sacks throughout the entire game.
The odds were certainly stacked against the Cowboys, but Orton kept Dallas in the game completing 30-of-46 passes for 358 yards and 2 touchdowns. Orton had a chance for late game heroics and nearly pulled off the win if not for an errant pass thrown behind wide receiver Miles Austin and intercepted by Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin. In succinct fashion Orton said of his pass,
“I wish I had the throw back.”
The interception certainly came at an inopportune time for Dallas, but Kyle made an incredible play in the earlier possession. With less than 4 minutes to play in the game, Orton hit wide receiver Dez Bryant in stride on a 32 yard pass resulting in a touchdown and bringing the Cowboys to within a field goal. Kyle looked poised in the pocket all game and head coach Jason Garrett said of Orton’s performance,
“Obviously there were a couple of plays in that game that he would love to have back, but I think if you look at the whole body of work, I think he did a heckuva job. He had a great week of practice. He was prepared. He was confident. I thought the guys responded to him. (Orton) made a ton of big plays in this game over and over and over again.”
The Dallas Cowboys end their season with a disappointing third straight .500 record. In spite of Orton’s interception, however, I don’t think you can pin this loss on him. Orton did what he could in a short period of time to get the team to within 3 points of a win. The Cowboys and team Owner/President/General Manager will now have to evaluate the year and decide what changes, if any, to make in the offseason.
While it is a third straight painful ending for the Boys, one thing that is certain is that without Kyle Orton’s leadership, the team would not have been in a position to win at all late in the fourth.
Follow Matt Thornton on Twitter: @MattsCowboys
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