Memory Lane: Cowboys play out the string at The Linc
The Cowboys are set to play a meaningless season finale versus the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The last time Dallas played a meaningless game in terms of their own miscarried postseason hopes and the Eagles' locked playoff positioning was Jan. 2, 2011, also at The Linc. It was the year Tony Romo broke his collarbone, the Cowboys posted a 1-7 record and forced Jerry Jones to fire head coach Wade Phillips, and the Jason Garrett experiment was off to a 4-3 start.
Backup quarterback Jon Kitna was doubtful with an abdomen injury sustained the previous week at Arizona. Now, second-year quarterback Stephen McGee out of Texas A&M would get his shot to lead the Cowboys to a strong finish to an otherwise forgettable 2010 campaign.
Philadelphia similarly was starting a reserve signal caller in fourth-year quarterback Kevin Kolb. The second-rounder from Houston in '07 somehow ran franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb out of Philadelphia, but Kolb sustained a concussion in the opening day loss to the Green Bay Packers. Backup Michael Vick won the job in Kolb's absence. Now, Vick was the one injured, and head coach Andy Reid chose to start Kolb in the season finale to protect his athletic field general and rest him up for the wildcard playoffs.
McGee led Dallas on a promising eight-play opening drive that forced the Eagles to burn a timeout. However, an incomplete pass on third-and-15 from the Eagles 40-yard line brought on a Mat McBriar punt. It was followed by four consecutive punts -- two by Philadelphia, two by Dallas -- before Kolb led the Eagles on the game's first scoring drive with 2:31 in the first quarter. Kolb completed 3-of-5 passes for 27 yards, including the touchdown to Chad Hall to put Philadelphia ahead 7-0 early in the second quarter.
The Dallas offense wasn't having any traction on the muddy grass surface amid the pouring rain. But the defense was. After another Cowboys punt, outside linebacker Anthony Spencer stripped Kolb for a 6-yard loss and popped the ball loose. All-Pro outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware scooped up the loose ball and breezed 17 yards into the end zone to tie the game 7-7 with 11:28 until halftime.
Ware would show up twice on the Eagles' final drive of the first half. The 2005 first-round pick from Troy sacked Kolb for a 10-yard loss on third-and-5 from the Philadelphia 35-yard line. But rookie defensive back Bryan McCann muffed the ensuing punt gave the ball back to the Eagles. Ware did it again: he dropped Kolb again, this time a loss of eight yards, to push Philadelphia out of field goal range. Safety Gerald Sensabaugh picked off Kolb to keep the score 7-7 at the break.
Cornerback Terence Newman picked off Kolb to end the Eagles' opening drive of the second half. It was the only big play by either side in the third quarter. Receiver Roy Williams had the most emblematic play for his tenure in Dallas as McGee targeted him on a slant on first-and-10 from the Dallas 22 with 4:36 in the period. Williams bobbled the pass six times before it fell incomplete and he kicked the ball in frustration.
Philadelphia would possess the ball on the quarter's final drive and convert it into a 43-yard David Akers field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter. After a nine-play, 78-yard drive, McGee drove the Cowboys to the Philadelphia 34-yard line to attempt a 52-yard David Buehler field goal. The second-year kicker missed the kick and gave the Eagles the ball with momentum.
Kolb put the Eagles in a goal-to-go situation with a 48-yard pass to Hall. Kolb carried twice for two yards and also threw a 4-yard completion before Philadelphia had to settle for a 22-yard Akers field goal to extend their lead 13-7 with 7:01 in the 2010 season.
Dallas went three-and-out on the following drive. Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff forced a fumble of running back Jerome Harrison on a third-and-9 from the Eagles 20-yard line, but Mike McGlynn fell on it for the Eagles to extend their drive. Dallas would burn two timeouts as they would stop Kolb with a 6-yard sack to force a Sav Rocca punt and give McGee one final chance to prevent a series sweep to the Eagles.
McGee must have paid attention to Romo's formula for a game-winning drive. The Aggie connected with Witten four times for 46 yards, including the 4-yard throw over the tight end's shoulder to tie the game 13-13. Buehler would hit the extra point, something he failed to do the previous week that led to defeat against the Cardinals. Dallas' defense, also unlike its effort the previous week, would have Newman pick off Kolb a second time to give McGee the lone kneel-down to mercifully bestow a 6-10 record for the Cowboys' 51st season.
The game was a glorified preseason game. Kolb would be dealt to Arizona the following off-season. Williams would be released. Garrett would finish with a 5-3 record as interim head coach and earn an extension.
Now, Garrett isn't coaching for his job, according to Jones' recent interview on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM] Tuesday. But this could be the last time fans see familiar players who have donned the Star for seasons. And again, with nothing to play for, the Cowboys are playing to avoid being swept by Philadelphia.
Have any fond memories of the Cowboys beating the Eagles back on Jan 2, 2011? Share 'em with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.