ARLINGTON, Texas — Nick Foles and Kyle Orton were backup quarterbacks when the season began.
With Tony Romo out after back surgery, they will be the starters for Philadelphia and Dallas when the Cowboys play their third straight season finale against an NFC East rival with a division title on the line Sunday night.
Foles has a 7-2 record in nine starts and leads the league in quarterback rating, which is why Michael Vick didn’t get his job back when he was healthy again last month.
Orton is almost exactly two years removed from his last start, back when Kansas City was finishing a 7-9 record in the same season he was dumped by Denver in favor of Tim Tebow. He’s played three games — and thrown just 15 passes — in two years as Romo’s backup.
Add the absence of defensive leader Sean Lee with a neck sprain, and the Cowboys are facing long odds trying to end a three-year playoff drought most notable for losses the past two seasons to the New York Giants and Washington in playoffs-or-bust finales.
“Obviously for him and I, everything you’ve worked for, you’ve done over the course of a decade is for moments like this,” said tight end Jason Witten, who came into the league with Romo in 2003. “And if he’s not able to go, obviously that’s a blow. But you want to do it for guys like that.”
Not so fast on the advantage for the Eagles, says Foles as he tries to finish a worst-to-first rebound from 4-12 to the postseason for Philadelphia under first-year coach Chip Kelly.
“I don’t care who’s quarterbacking, who’s playing,” said Foles, who has 25 touchdowns and two interceptions. “If you’re not up for that, I don’t know if you’ll ever be up to play football.”
The Eagles have been held without a touchdown once this season, in a 17-3 loss to Dallas in October. Foles was 11 of 29 for 80 yards before the Cowboys knocked him out of the game with a concussion.
Since then, Foles is 6-1 and averaging 287 yards passing per game. He tied the NFL record for touchdown passes in a game with seven against Oakland the first start after the Cowboys shut him down.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys have given up the first two 600-yard games in franchise history; an NFL-record 40 first downs; eight straight scoring drives to Chicago backup Josh McCown; and five in a row to Green Bay sub Matt Flynn when the Packers rallied from 26-3 down at halftime. Dallas did get two late stops that were big boosts in the rally to beat Washington.