The Dallas Cowboys will have to try to win the division without Tony Romo at quarterback.
Romo is out for the season, according to head coach Jason Garrett, after undergoing back surgery Friday morning. Backup Kyle Orton will start in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night that will decide the NFC East crown.
"The procedure happened this morning," Garrett said. "We felt the surgery went well. Tony should be able to come home later today and start his rehabilitation.
"It was the right decision for him and the right decision for the organization."
There had been a glimmer of hope — a Christmas miracle, if you will — from the Cowboys' perspective that perhaps Romo could find a way to play Sunday. But the team officially placed Romo on the injured reserve, and he now faces a long rehab in the offseason. Romo also underwent a minor back procedure in May, missing a portion of the team's OTAs after having a cyst removed from his back.
The surgery on Friday was aimed at repairing a bulging disc, but Garrett believes Romo, 34, can bounce back quickly. That's one reason why the team chose to schedule the surgery for Friday — to help speed up the recovery process.
"He'll start his road to recovery, sooner rather than later," Garrett said. "We're completely confident he will rehab and come back at 100 percent."
Orton, who has not started a game since 2011 with the Kansas City Chiefs, will face the Eagles in a game where the winner is granted a home playoff game next week and the loser is home for the winter. Orton, who has a 37-37 career mark as a starter, last played in a win-at-all-costs Week 17 game in 2009 with the Denver Broncos and lost, 44-24, throwing three interceptions.
For the Cowboys, Orton has completed 12-of-15 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown in three games over the past two seasons. He'll be backed up this week by Jon Kitna, who was signed this week.
Romo had missed on division-clinching opportunities in Week 17 games each of the past two seasons. The Cowboys lost their season-finale chances in 2011 and 2012 to win the NFC East, and Romo struggled noticeably in the game against the Washington Redskins last season, throwing three interceptions.
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