Tony Romo’s botched hold in Seattle needs a deep rewind | 2006 NFC Wild Card Game

It’s January 6th, 2007.
We’re in Seattle, Washington.
There’s one-nineteen left in the NFC wildcard
game between the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas
Seattle leads Dallas 21-to-20, but on 4th-and-1,
the Cowboys are lined up for a 19-yard field
goal that would put them in position to win
their first playoff game since 1996.
While the play is routine, it’s one that
can dramatically alter storylines and frame
It can establish a star on the rise, let a
storied coach reclaim postseason glory, and
serve as another blow to a team that came
so close a season ago only to falter when
it mattered most.
So there’s enough on the line that what
comes next can’t really be “routine.”
To remember why that is, let’s rewind.
Admittedly this is the Dallas Cowboys’ story.
But every story needs a setting.
And for tonight, it’s the cold, noisy, but
surprisingly dry Qwest Field.
To get us here, Seattle took an up-and-down
journey that began with disappointment.
In 2005, this was a 13-and-3 squad.
And one of those losses came in week 17 when
they already had the NFC’s one-seed locked
They got a full 16-games from Matt Hasselbeck,
a defense that gave up less than 17-points
per game, and the star of the show: league
MVP Shaun Alexander.
He put up video game numbers and single-handedly
outrushed 20-teams that season.
His record-breaking 27-touchdowns on the ground
helped Seattle lead the NFL in scoring, and
they carried that through the playoffs where
they reached Super Bowl 40.
But the ride stopped there.
A couple of questionable calls in the 4th
came on either side of a Hasselbeck interception
– which led to the Steelers delivering a final
blow to seal the win.
Having come so close, the Seahawks had some
work to do.
They started by locking down Alexander and
ignoring the tread on his tires.
They found a young replacement for their aging
And beefed up the defense while they were
at it.
One tough spot came when Steve Hutchinson
signed a deal with the Vikings.
While Seattle had the chance to match the
contract, they couldn’t match the language
the All-Pro guard convinced Minnesota to include,
which said if at any point in the deal he
was no longer their highest-paid offensive
lineman, then the remainder of the contract
would become fully guaranteed – a poison pill
Seattle would’ve immediately swallowed since
they had recently given Walter Jones a more
lucrative deal.
This language sent the teams to court, Seattle
lost, and the hope of a return trip to the
Super Bowl took a hit.
They found a distraction after week one with
a trade for Deion Branch, which gave Hasselbeck
another weapon and helped the team to a 4-and-1
record out of the gate.
An added focus to the air attack turned extra
beneficial when Alexander went down.
After touching the ball over 350-times in
five straight seasons, he injured his foot
in week one but continued to plod along – just
at a very non-Alexander rate.
After an abysmal week three performance, the
foot worsened and Alexander went down.
A few weeks later, Hasselbeck joined Alexander
with a bad knee courtesy of Minnesota.
While both guys would return for their push
to the playoffs, the Seahawks limped their
way down the stretch.
They dropped three of their final four and
Alexander never managed to look like himself.
Without the back churning out yards and killing
clock, the defense fell off along the way.
Fortunately for them – even when Seattle lost
in week 16, they clinched their division,
which brought us here.
But now, the 12th man might have a long drive
home if this kick is good.
And right here, this is unfamiliar territory
for the Cowboys.
Making the playoffs is one thing, but being
in position to win?
It’s been 10 years since that last happened.
While that looks likely to change tonight,
the path they took to get here has been extremely
Dallas Cowboys.
Let’s go back to 2003.
The Cowboys were coming off of three straight
five-win seasons under Dave Campo.
Bill Parcells stepped in as head coach and
while it was a big, exciting move for the
franchise, it also gave reason for skepticism.
Parcells always liked things done his way.
His new boss Jerry Jones – it may surprise
you – also liked things done his way.
When Parcells left New England, he said, “If
they want you to cook the dinner, at least
they ought to let you shop for some of the
Jones had been known to send back dishes and
preferred to salt his own meals.
At the end of the day though, they both wanted
something good, and Parcells immediately delivered.
After jettisoning one of the greatest running
backs in league history, the Cowboys squad
led by Quincy Carter actually pulled off the
team’s best record since 1998, which included
a playoff birth.
They lost their wildcard game, but in the
offseason got a new, more mature look.
With Vinny Testaverde, Keyshawn Johnson, and
Eddie George in town, the Parcells magic seemed
to have quickly worn off.
Another facelift turned the reigns over to
Drew Bledsoe and led to their 2nd winning
season in the last seven years.
But after back-to-back postseason misses,
Jones’ patience was running out with Parcells.
And Parcells admitted that this had been his
toughest task yet.
So Jones looked to make things a little easier.
He brought in one of the best wide receivers
money could buy who was available for reasons
unknown and was humble enough to recognize
the importance of being a team player.
Despite Parcells not being there for the introductory
press conference, Jones was adamant that the
coach had given his blessing.
Many read the situation as one final chance
for Parcells to bring success back to the
As an extra measure, they added the most accurate
kicker in NFL history, who also had his own
reasons for availability but was just as humble.
And yet, the best-laid plans of mice and men
often include training camp injuries.
The two big-name additions got off to a slow
start, and once the season kicked off the
Cowboys did the same.
They found themselves at 500 after six games,
with more reasons to be in the news than even
Jones would hope for.
That included quarterback controversy as soon
as the season began, an accidental overdose
by their new receiver, and questions about
their head coach’s ability to run this team.
And yet, the Cowboys were in the Super Bowl
Well, part of that was thanks to a new face.
Oh, sorry not him.
Martin Gramatica.
So, the guy who proclaimed himself as the
He failed to live up to his own hype.
After missing just seven attempts over his
previous three seasons, Vanderjagt kicked
his way out of Dallas.
To fill the void, Parcells took a chance on
Gramatica who, due to injury, had only kicked
one field goal since 2004.
In his first game as a Cowboy, it looked like
a gamble that might not pay off.
On Dallas’s opening drive against the Giants,
Automatica missed from 44-yards out.
He redeemed himself to close out the first
half, then got his chance to play the hero
in the closing seconds.
Tied at 20, Gramatica drilled a 46-yarder
for the win and got mobbed by his new teammates.
But now, they’re on the sideline holding
their breath as their kicker lines up for
one of the shortest attempts of his career.
It’s more like an extra point – and in his
career, Gramatica has missed just two of those
– one of which was blocked, the other after
a high snap.
So, while nothing’s guaranteed, Dallas has
reason to feel good.
Ok so maybe he’s not like THE reason people
thought Dallas could make some noise in the
But down 21-20, he’s helped keep them in
the game.
The trouble for the Cowboys is not long ago,
it looked like they were in the driver’s
Yet, Seattle’s got the lead.
At the start of the second half, Hasselbeck
and co put together a 12-play drive that ended
with this 15-yard pass to Jerramy Stevens
for a go-ahead touchdown.
But their three-point edge wouldn’t last
On the ensuing kickoff, undrafted rookie Miles
Austin caught the ball at the seven.
He burst through the meat shield, hugged the
sideline, and let his speed do the rest.
“Down the sideline out in front of the Cowboy
bench and Miles Austin will take it all the
way in for a 93-yard kickoff return touchdown.”
After a Hasselbeck interception, Dallas tacked
on another three from Gramatica, and with
ten to play Seattle found themselves down
a touchdown.
The Seahawks turned a good drive into a great
one when Hasselbeck went to the end zone from
30-yards out.
While he failed to connect with Burleson,
Newman got flagged for pass interference,
and the Seahawks set up shop at the one.
At such a close range, everyone watching knew
Seattle would hand the ball off to their All-Pro
running back.
But the Dallas D managed to push Alexander
back seven yards and immediately stemmed the
Two pass plays led to a 4th-and-goal from
the two, where this time Seattle opted to
stick to the air.
The Cowboys defense held, and their offense
had the chance to grind some clock.
But instead, Dallas went with a wide receiver
Terry Glenn fumbled, the ball bounced into
the end zone, and out of bounds for a safety.
Just like that, the Seahawks were down five
and had the ball.
On their fourth play, Hasselbeck again looked
deep and again found Stevens over the middle
to go up by one.
They looked to make it a field goal lead,
but on the two-point conversion, DeMarcus
Ware forced Hasselbeck to retreat to the 25
and heave a prayer that fell incomplete.
But the quarterback had done his job and got
Seattle the lead.
Which brings us here.
One, simple kick.
The routine of routine plays.
And…aw, beans, yeah.
Sorry, forgot.
So the holder.
That’s Tony Romo!
And man, the kid can play.
He’s the real reason Dallas is in this position
and even in the playoffs at all.
Romo was a D2 standout at Eastern Illinois.
As a senior, he won the Walter Payton award.
That plus three seasons as the Ohio Valley
Conference player of the year were just enough
to get invited to the 2003 combine as an extra
He made the most of the opportunity and impressed
fellow Eastern Illinois-alum and then-Dallas
quarterbacks coach Sean Payton.
While he went undrafted, Romo had suitors
immediately and opted for the Cowboys in part
because Parcells told him he had a solid chance
of playing since the head coach wasn’t sure
who his quarterback was.
His first three seasons were spent battling
for a roster spot and waiting for a chance.
After beating out names like Chad Hutchinson
and Drew Henson, Romo finally entered the
‘06 season as the number-two quarterback
and had done enough in the preseason for some
to actually prefer him over Bledsoe.
The veteran didn’t do much to quiet things
down, and halfway through their sixth game,
Parcells had seen enough.
With Bledsoe on the bench, Romo took over
in the second half against the Giants.
While he put up mixed results during another
Cowboys loss, Parcells decided to make the
change permanent, saying he’d seen too many
mistakes and too much improvising from Bledsoe.
In Romo’s first career start, he brought
Dallas back with 35-unanswered points against
the Panthers.
As a starter, he won five of his first six
and got the Cowboys in position to win their
division for the first time since 1998.
The Cowboys finally had a quarterback that
not only was having success but was also fun
as hell and easy to root for.
But inconsistent play on both sides of the
ball made for a long December.
In week 16 with a chance to clinch the NFC
East, Dallas laid an egg against the Eagles
and the old storylines reemerged.
Owens, who had allegedly been out partying
the night before with his old teammates and
had some critical drops, spoke up about not
seeing enough passes.
Glenn did the same and called out his teammates
for not playing hard enough.
Week seventeen wouldn’t be much better as
their defense gave up 39-points to the 2-and-13
But despite losing three of their last four,
the Cowboys season wasn’t over.
And even with all the doubt and drama that
has surrounded them, they’re a kick away
from advancing to the divisional round.
But right before this moment, it looked like
they wouldn’t even need to kick it at all.
Dallas had managed to drive 64-yards in two-and-a-half
minutes and faced a 3rd-and-7 from eight yards
A touchdown would’ve been nice, but with
the chance of picking up another first down
the Cowboys could completely run out the clock.
Romo took the snap and looked to the right.
He found Jason Witten who needed a pile up
to stop him.
As the ball was spotted, the officials ruled
that Witten picked up the yardage needed for
a first down, giving Dallas first-and-goal
with time ticking away.
But the call was close enough that it went
under review, and Walt Anderson delivered
the game-changing news.
Romo stayed on the field, not because Parcells
was looking to gamble, just because despite
being named starter he had continued to carry
out the holding duties.
Why ruin a good thing – it was the part of
the game where the kid had remained perfect.
And considering all he’s done for this team
– getting them to this point and inspiring
hope for the future – it’s fitting he can
be on the field to celebrate a moment like
The Cowboys on the verge of their first playoff
win in ten years.
Their coach looking to continue his last hoorah.
And they can do it all with the most pedestrian
of plays.
As for their opponents, after coming so close
a year ago, it could be a crushing end to
a season where they’ve battled through so
Their stars fought through injuries, all to
come up short in front of their home crowd.
With Romo awaiting the snap and a chance to
frame the storied career that’s sure to
come, welcome to a moment in history.
19-yard field goal attempt.
As a Cowboys fan, this video absolutely sucked
to make so please watch it AND share it so
the views can heal me.
Or watch the Giants Collapse because they
don’t deserve good things either.
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