The Cowboys limped into the 2006 playoffs losing 2 of their last 3, two of which were at home. Still, there was a confidence there that the Cowboys would go into Seattle and compete favorably against the hometown Seahawks and sneak into Chicago and take on the quarterbackless Bears.
The Seahawks were staggering into the playoffs like Daphne’s dad into the Moon home at 4 AM. They also had lost 2 of their last 3, two of which were also at home. These weren’t the same Seahawks that America had seen saunter through the playoffs last year only to be cheated by the referees in Super Bowl XL.
No, I want to talk about that for a moment. I know it’s chic and as fashionable as using a Cutco pizza cutter to bash on the replacement referees. But just take a look at Super Bowl XL and the Biden-esque gaffes the officials committed in the stump speech of officiating. How could it get any worse than that? What improvements has the NFL made in their officiating since then to ensure that won’t occur again, especially in the biggest game in Western Civilization?
Ah, leave me alone with the replacement officials talk.
So here you have two fading teams hoping to capture a renaissance in the playoffs. It wasn’t like the 2003 playoffs where the Cowboys were just honored to be there. No, we had a playmaking quarterback finally. We had two playmaking receivers and a tight end who was third-best in the game. We had a defense good enough to bend but not break. Maybe we would see something special out of our rookie first rounder this game.
The game got off to a sloppy start with a Martin Gramatica kickoff out of bounds. The Seahawks took the good field position and drove to the Cowboys’ 5 yard line to put three points on the board. With the Cowboys’ opening possession, Dallas could only move the ball as far as the Seahawks’ 40 yard line before punting away the possession.
Things looked promising for the Cowboys when cornerback Anthony Henry, who had been battling a knee injury that past 8 weeks of the season, picked off Hasselbeck on the Seahawks’ first play following the punt. The Cowboys’ offense could only drive 11 yards and put up three points to tie with a Martin Gramatica 50-yard field goal.
With the Cowboys receiving the Ryan Plackemeier punt at the Cowboys’ 41 yard line, it was a very optimistic moment for Cowboys fans. If the Cowboys could muster a good drive here, they could put points on the board. On 3rd and 13, Jason Witten gained 19 yards on a reception, but fumbled the ball at the Seattle 42. It was an opportunity squandered, but it wasn’t portending. Rather, it was indicative of what a tough fight these two teams were waging.
The 2nd quarter was an equally stingy period for the Cowboys and Seahawks. However, the Cowboys put up a touchdown versus the Seahawks’ repetitive field goal. Furthermore, the Cowboys’ touchdown was more promising because it started at their own 24 yard line. The nearly 5-minute drive concluded with a Patrick Crayton touchdown, the receiver’s only postseason score of his career. Going into halftime 10-6, it appeared the Cowboys had found their stride. Now, if the defense could hold and this gunslinging Romo could manage the game, the Cowboys would advance to the divisional round.
Dallas opened the 3rd quarter with a three-and-out. The Seahawks’ offense drove 62 yards to go ahead 13-10 on a Jeramy Stevens touchdown. With the Cowboys’ failure to score with their opening possession and then the Seahawks soaring down the field, it was an anxious time.
Then an undrafted rookie receiver sporting #14 took the kickoff return for a touchdown. As he saw himself streaking down the field in the Qwest Field jumbotron, we saw another star emerging in Dallas. His name was Miles Austin, and he put the Cowboys back on top 17-13.
When the 4th quarter began, Terence Newman and Roy Williams teamed up to pick off Matt Hasselbeck for a second time. The interception was upheld after review, and the Cowboys’ offense started their optimistic drive at their own 43 yard line. With this key possession, all they could muster was three points to put it at 20-13 Cowboys.
Matt Hasselbeck led the Seahawks from their own 27 to the Cowboys’ 2 yard line. The defense held forth again and the Seahawks turned the ball over on downs. Yet, for some reason, Lady Luck began, not only to turn her back on the Cowboys, but moon them as well.
On the first play after the turnover on downs, Romo threw a screen to Terry Glenn. The receiver who had racked up over 1,000 yards that season, proceeded to take a bad step, took a hit from Kelly Jennings, lost the football, and then proceeded to give up a safety as the Seahawks couldn’t recover the ball in-bounds. On the ensuing free kick, Seattle’s offense commandingly drove the field to take a 21-20 lead with 4:24 left in the game.
It was crunch time. It was Tony Romo’s time.
While Romo threw to Crayton and Owens each for gains just above ten yards, it was Julius Jones’ 35-yard run to the Seattle 11 yard line that got the Cowboys into field goal range to take the lead and possibly win the game. There was too much time on the clock, especially with this Seattle Seahawks team that had a kicker in Josh Brown who won four games that year on last-second field goals.
It was 3rd and 7 from the Seattle 8 yard line. It was possible for the Cowboys to get a first down, run out the clock, and kick a field goal. Or, better yet, score a touchdown and force the Seahawks to drive the length of the field to beat the Cowboys.
As luck would have it, Jason Witten caught a checkdown on 3rd and 7, but only gained 6 yards after the replay assistant overturned the ruling on the field of a first down. Now, with it being 4th down and 1:19 left, Mike Holgren took a timeout to give his offense the best chance to kick their own game-winning field goal after the Cowboys’ field goal attempt.
That’s all it was: an attempt.
It’s one of the most shocking and deflating moments of the 2000’s for the Dallas Cowboys. In one play, it symbolized what the franchise had endured since 1998 with their bizarre, uncharacteristic loss to the Arizona Cardinals at home to their historic choke jobs recently seen in 2011. Bad luck struck the Cowboys in the most quaint of ways: a bad snap. A bad snap! Who botches a freakin’ field goal snap? We’re not the 2002 New York Giants.
In the face of disaster, Tony Romo took the ball and ran with it towards the goal line. He knew what to do. He didn’t falter in this face of this unfortunate event. Maybe he would have made it had he been able to grip the slick ball as it took a precious second to pick it up. Maybe he would have been able to score the touchdown if Martin Gramatica had just thrown himself in front of Jordan Babineaux.
Maybe history would remember Tony Romo differently.
Instead, Babineaux made the tackle at the 2 yard line, the same spot where Witten couldn’t get that first down. The Cowboys turned the ball over on downs and their season was seemingly over. Yeah, the defense managed to get the ball back for a Hail Mary, but it wasn’t enough as Terry Glenn just watched Romo’s 29th pass attempt fall to the end zone.
This game set the narrative that the Cowboys were chokers and Tony Romo couldn’t win the big one. It was a game that defined a team, even in the midst of their subsequent division title years. It was a demon that was never truly exorcised until the Cowboys smashed the Eagles 34-14 in the 2009 wild card playoffs.
The Cowboys lead the series 9-5 with the lone playoff encounter among the 4
losses. The Cowboys are 3-3 in Seattle. Here’s the breakdown by stadium:
Kingdome (’76, ’83) — 2-0
Husky Stadium (’01) — 0-1
Qwest Field (’04, ’05, ’06) — 1-2
In the years the Cowboys have beaten the Seahawks on the road, they have not
gone on to win a playoff game.
CenturyLink Field, formerly Qwest Field, has earned the reputation for being the
loudest place to play. The media and locals attribute opponents’ false starts to
the 12th Man embodied in the raucous crowd. What’s ironic is the Seattle
Seahawks not only have the most false starts in the Cowboys’ three encounters up
there, but they are the first ones to commit a false start.
4-7-SEA 30 — 3rd Quarter — (12:48) (Punt formation) PENALTY on SEA-O.Huff
2-10-DAL 37 — 1st Quarter — (:06) PENALTY on SEA-J.Urban
3-5-DAL 32 — 2nd Quarter — (:40) PENALTY on SEA-J.Stevens 2-5-DAL 39 — 3rd
Quarter — (14:19) PENALTY on DAL-M.Rivera
2-9-DAL 43 (13:51) — 1st Quarter — PENALTY on SEA-W.Jones
2-8-DAL 43 (3:50) — 1st Quarter — (Shotgun) PENALTY on DAL-F.Adams
(Kick formation) — 3rd Quarter — PENALTY on DAL-P.McQuistan
Tony Romo has started the most games against the Seahawks with 4 (’06, ’08, ’09,
’11), while Matt Hasselbeck has started the most games against the Cowboys with
7 (’01, ’02, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’08, ’09). Russell Wilson will be the 7th Seahawks
quarterback to have faced the Cowboys, while Romo is the Cowboys’ 9th
quarterback to have faced the Seahawks.
Roger Staubach — 1976 (1-0)
Danny White — 1980, ’83 (2-0)
Steve Pelluer — 1986 (0-1)
Troy Aikman — 1992, ’98 (2-0)
Quincy Carter — 2001 (0-1)
Chad Hutchinson — 2002 (0-1)
Vinny Testaverde — 2004 (1-0)
Drew Bledsoe — 2005 (0-1)
Tony Romo — 2006, ’08, ’09, ’11 (3-1)
Jim Zorn — 1976, ’80 (0-2)
Dave Krieg — 1983, ’86 (1-1)
Dan McGwire — 1992 (0-1)
Warren Moon — 1998 (0-1)
Matt Hasselbeck — 2001, ’02, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’08, ’09 (4-3)
Tavaris Jackson — 2011 (0-1)
Seven Cowboys head coaches have faced the Seahawks since 1976. On Sunday,
Garrett will join Landry, Campo, and Parcells as the only coaches to have led
the Cowboys into Seattle. Parcells is the only Cowboys head coach not to have
played the Seahawks at home.
Landry — 1976*, ’80, ’83*, ’86 (3-1)
Johnson — 1992 (1-0)
Gailey — 1998 (1-0)
Campo — 2001*, ’02 (0-1)
Parcells — 2004*, ’05*, ’06* (1-2)
Phillips — 2008, ’09 (2-0)
Garrett — 2011 (1-0)
*denotes road game
All of the Seahawks’ eight head coaches have faced the Cowboys. The lone
exception is 1982 interim head coach Mike McCormack. ’82 was a strike-shortened
season and the Seahawks were set to face the NFC Central anyway.
Jack Patera — 1976, ’80, (0-2)
Chuck Knox — 1983, ’86 (1-1)
Tom Flores — 1992 (0-1)
Dennis Erickson — 1998 (0-1)
Mike Holmgren — 2001, ’02, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’08 (4-2)
Jim Mora, Jr. — 2009 (0-1)
Pete Carroll — 2011 (0-1)