By Kevin Noonan The SportsXchange
PHILADELPHIA — It had the feel and the look of an NFL preseason game, as one team looked ahead to the postseason and the other to the offseason.
There was nothing at stake except pride when the going-nowhere Philadelphia Eagles beat the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys 27-13 on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Dallas, which had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, finishes its regular season at 13-3. That ties the franchise record for most victories in a season — the Cowboys also won 13 games in 1992 and 2007.
The most significant thing about this meaningless game came with 13 minutes left in the second quarter when Tony Romo took over at quarterback for the Cowboys in relief of starter Dak Prescott, who played two series and led his team to three points.
Romo, who missed 12 games last year with a broken collarbone, hadn’t played all season after injuring his back in the preseason. And on his first play in more than a year he threw a long bomb to wide receiver Terrance Williams, but the pass sailed long and incomplete. But Romo then completed two straight passes, and after Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll was flagged for interference in the end zone, Romo threw a 3-yard TD pass to Williams to give Dallas a 10-3 lead with 10:11 left in the first half.
And that was it for Romo — after seven plays he was replaced by Mark Sanchez for the Cowboys’ next possession. Sanchez, who had thrown just one pass this season prior to Sunday (completing it for 8 yards), played the rest of the way after replacing Romo.
“You expect to go out there and do something well,” Romo said after the game. “It felt normal.
“It’s enjoyable to have a little success, but I kind of do that at practice each day. Ultimately, you are going to be defined by what you do on Sunday, but in my experience, if you’re not doing it throughout the week, Sunday is going to be difficult.”
The Cowboys didn’t play several starters and others played just a couple of series as Dallas refocuses on the playoffs. Among others, the Cowboys didn’t play rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had an outside chance at setting an NFL rookie rushing record — he came into the game needing 178 yards to pass the mark of 1,808 yards set by Eric Dickerson of the Rams in 1983. Dallas also sat out often-injured linebacker Sean Lee, who was listed as questionable earlier in the week with a sore knee. And wide receiver Dez Bryant played just three series before taking the rest of the day off.
“We want to win every game we play because we’re competitors who take pride in what we do,” Dallas safety Barry Church said. “But we also have higher goals than just winning as many (regular-season) games as we can. Now, we’re looking ahead at what we can accomplish, not looking back at what we’ve accomplished so far.”
Dallas coach Jason Garrett echoed that sentiment when he was asked to reflect on the Cowboys’ 13-win season.
“This is not the time for reflection,” Garrett said. “It’s time to get back to work. The only thing that matters is what we do now.”
The Eagles (7-9) scored the winning touchdown when quarterback Carson Wentz threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz with 4:56 left in the third quarter. Wentz also set an NFL rookie record when he completed a pass in the Eagles’ opening drive, which passed the record of 354 completions set by St. Louis’ Sam Bradford in 2010.
Wentz finished the game completing 27 of 43 passes for 245 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 93.7. Ertz caught a game-high 13 passes for 139 yards and two TDs.
“We’re disappointed and frustrated that we didn’t make the playoffs, but it means a lot to us to win these last two games,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said. “We played hard all season and we had a chance to win almost every game, so we feel we have something solid to build on for next year.”
Caleb Sturgis gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead in the first quarter with a 22-yard field goal, which also set an Eagles record for most FGs in a season, with 34. He broke the mark set by David Akers in 2008. After that, the game went back and forth until the Eagles took control in the fourth quarter.
“Nobody is happy with the way this season went,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “But we’re all excited about the direction we’re headed. This is a team on the rise and we’ll go into the offseason with a lot of energy and excitement.”