Too little too late for the Eagles' playoff hopes

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - December 24, 2011

The Eagles will not be in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

While they are proving that they are a team that has not given up, their fight comes to late.

Michael Vick threw two touchdown passes to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a 20-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday in a game that had all the intensity of a preseason dress rehearsal.

The game became somewhat meaningless midway through the first quarter. A victory by the Giants eliminated the Eagles from the playoffs and turned the Dallas-New York game next weekend into a showdown to decide the NFC East title.

The Cowboys still had wild-card hopes to play for, but clearly were more concerned about getting ready for the "win and you're in" route to the playoffs. Quarterback Tony Romo left after injuring his throwing hand on the first series and oft-injured running back Felix Jones hit the bench for good after the second series. They came within 7 seconds of getting shut out.

Vick threw a touchdown pass on the opening series and again just before halftime. Alex Henery kicked field goals of 43 and 51 yards for the Eagles' only points in the second half.

Philadelphia (7-8) won its third straight, giving the preseason "Dream Team" the chance to avoid a losing record by beating the Redskins at home in its finale next weekend. The Eagles also swept the season series against the Cowboys for the first time since 2006, having clobbered Dallas 34-7 in October.

The Cowboys (8-7) lost for the third time in four games, and are guaranteed another losing record after Thanksgiving. If they end up missing the playoffs, that flop at the finish will loom large all offseason. Of course, if they win the division, it'll only be a footnote. The upcoming week will be filled with all sorts of similar high-stakes ramifications that will be riding on the finale for both Dallas and New York.

When this game kicked off, the Giants were up by only six points midway through the fourth quarter, so the Cowboys and Eagles still had a lot to play for.

Philadelphia got the ball first and Vick picked up where he left off the last time these teams met, cruising 80 yards in eight plays for a 7-0 lead. Then Eagles snuffed Romo, forcing a punt from around midfield.

On the final play of that series, Romo rushed a third-down pass to avoid a sack. On his follow-through, he smacked his passing hand on Jason Babin's helmet. That's when things got about as interesting as they'd be the rest of the afternoon.

While Romo was in the locker room getting X-rayed, the Giants began pulling away. Soon after, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones arrived on the sideline from his midfield viewing booth, presumably to discuss or demand the play-it-safe approach.

Jones returned to his booth about the same time that Romo returned to the sideline, doctors having determined he had no broken bones, just a bruise. Romo threw a few wobbly warm-up passes, spoke to a trainer, then got his wrist wrapped. About the same time he was trading his helmet for a baseball cap, team vice president Stephen Jones arrived on the sideline and spoke with trainers. Jones then joined Romo as being done for the day.

Vick was 18 of 32 for 293 yards, with the touchdowns going to Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. Jason Avant nearly had another TD, but fumbled inches before touching the pylon, resulting in a touchback for the Cowboys.

DeSean Jackson caught five passes for 90 yards, and he ran for 27 yards on a pair of end arounds, both coming on consecutive plays.

Dallas' Stephen McGee - who moved up from third-stringer to backup when Jon Kitna went on injured reserve - was 24 of 38 for 182 yards, and ran four times for 28 yards. McGee beat the Eagles in last season's finale, but he struggled to even sustain drives this time.

It didn't help that his running backs were Sammy Morris (pulled from retirement before last week's game) and Chauncey Washington (signed off the street this week).

McGee appeared to have overseen Dallas' first shutout since November 2003, and first at home since September 1991, also against the Eagles, when a fourth-down pass from the Philadelphia 18 fell incomplete in the end zone with 2:13 left.

But the defense forced a punt and rookie Bruce Carter blocked it, giving McGee one last drive. He started on the 16 with 19 seconds left, running for 12 yards, then hitting Miles Austin for a 4-yard touchdown pass.

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