ARLINGTON, Texas – Kyle Orton stood at his locker and faced the answer dead-on.
For the second-straight season, the Cowboys hopes of winning the NFC East were dashed by a late-game interception. The turnover was the Cowboys' third of the night and cost them a shot at the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
"I just threw a bad pass. Miles ran a great route and the same play we scored on the play before," Orton said. "Went to Miles this time and just threw it behind him and he [the Eagles DB] made a nice catch on the ball."
Moments before his short pass to Miles Austin was intercepted, Orton had indeed connected with Dez Bryant for a 32-yard touchdown on the same route. After a failed two-point conversion and a defensive hold, he found himself in the same situation at the Cowboys' 32-yard line.
"I just missed it. Like I said, we hit it on the touchdown to Dez," he said. "I thought everybody fought hard and battled the whole game -- really missed a few opportunities throughout the game."
The late-game gaffe marred what had been an admirable performance by Orton in his first start since the 2011 season. Filling in for an injured Tony Romo, he completed 30-of-46 passes, 65 percent, for 358 yards and two touchdowns.
"Obviously there were a couple of plays in the game that he would have liked back, but if you look at the whole body of work I thought that he did a heck of a job," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "He had a great week of practice. He was prepared, he was confident. The guys responded to him."
Perhaps that will be some small comfort. Given the scrutiny on Orton this week, it's fair to say the Cowboys' backup responded well to doubts about his ability. Unfortunately, it's also fair to say his final throw of the season will be the one that is remembered most.
"Yeah sure, no doubt. Everybody puts in a lot throughout the season and this is my chance to contribute and I had a chance down two with two minutes to go," Orton said. "I'm expected to make good plays and Miles ran a good route and I expect to make that throw."
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones spoke briefly about Tony Romo's status following the game on Sunday. Romo had back surgery for a herniated disc in his back Friday morning, paving the way for Orton to take the reins against the Eagles.
Jones said his franchise quarterback's recovery should go smoothly in the offseason.
"The nature of his injury was not alarming as a result of what they saw when they had surgery. It's not alarming as to his future. It wasn't complicated," he said.
This is the second time in eight months Romo has had surgery on his back, after he had a cyst removed in April. Despite that, Jones has said the two problems weren't related.
"It was readily addressable, and it should, frankly, expect the kind of rehab and recovery he had earlier with the cyst-type situation," Jones said. "I honestly know that he got quicker relief once he had the procedure done – he had immediate relief."
Hopeful for Holloman
Rookie linebacker DeVonte Holloman led the Cowboys in tackles in his second-ever start as a middle linebacker. The sixth-round pick from just eight months ago was forced into spot duty by the neck injury to Sean Lee, and he amassed 11 tackles and two sacks of Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.
"It seemed like he handled the situation well. He is a young player and really hasn't played that much linebacker. He was a safety when we drafted him who played down and around the line of scrimmage," Garrett said. "The strides that he made over the course of the season to be able to handle that responsibility is really impressive."
Holloman was a special teamer when his own injuries forced him from the lineup earlier this season. The rookie missed seven games after injuring his neck in the first game against Washington. He tallied 21 tackles in the final three games of the season.
Sunday night was Morris Claiborne's first game back on the field in five weeks, and just his 10th game in a 16-week season.
Now, it'll be a nine-month wait for more meaningful football. That's not a prospect that sits well with the Cowboys' former first round pick, who is still waiting for a break in what has been a star-crossed career.
"I'm so hungry right now. Coming back this week to practice, I was so hungry – just wanting to go play football," Claiborne said. "Going through all the things I went through, and finally getting back, and now it's all gone – I still can't play football."
Claiborne said he plans to spend his offseason in Dallas and get back to work and coming back stronger.
"I plan on being the best corner in this league, and I'm going to do whatever it takes for me to be the best corner in this league – and it starts with this offseason," he said.
Here are some more notes from Sunday's loss to Philadelphia: [embedded_ad]
- Jason Hatcher* *had two sacks tonight for his third multi-sack game of the season and fourth of his career. For the season he racked up 11.0 sacks – a career-best – making him the 24th different Dallas Cowboy to reach 10.0 sacks in a season.
- Jason Witten's 851 yards on the season marked his eighth career and seventh consecutive 800-yard season – both second all-time among league tight ends.
- Dez Bryant finished the game with eight catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. For the season, he had 1,233 yards – a career-best and ninth in a season in franchise history.
- Bryant's* *touchdown catch against the Eagles was his fifth straight game with a scoring reception – the second-longest streak of his career (seven in 2012).