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Archive for Sunday, January 7, 2007

Botched hold dooms Dallas

Romo mishandles snap on late field-goal attempt

January 7, 2007

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— All Tony Romo had to do was put the ball down and let Martin Gramatica make an easy kick - just 19 yards, even closer than an extra point.

He couldn't do it. And just like that, it all slipped away from the Dallas Cowboys.

Romo's bobble on the field-goal try with 1:19 left led to a scramble that ended two yards shy of the end zone and a yard short of a first down, preserving a 21-20 victory for the Seattle Seahawks in the wildest of wild-card games Saturday night.

"You coach long enough, you end up seeing just about everything," Seattle's Mike Holmgren said. "One more thing for the journal."

The excitement he felt probably didn't match the despair for Dallas coach Bill Parcells, who was oh-so-close to his first playoff win since 1998 and the Cowboys' first postseason victory since 1996.

"It was just one of those things," Parcells said. "It looked like a good snap. I can't tell you what happened after that. We're an extra point from being down to the eight teams left. That's what's the hardest thing."

Romo was a big reason Dallas even made it this far, having saved the season by winning five of his first six starts after replacing Drew Bledsoe at quarterback.

That was little comfort after Romo's last-second heave fell incomplete. He walked off the field briskly, head down, and was choked up during a postgame interview. In the locker room, he sat on a chair facing his locker, his shoulders hunched.

"I know how hard everyone in that locker room worked to get themselves in position to win that game today and for it to end like that, and for me to be the cause is very tough to swallow right now," Romo said. "I take responsibility for messing up at the end there. That's my fault. I cost the Dallas Cowboys a playoff win, and it's going to sit with me a long time."

Gramatica's kick was supposed to cap a thrilling rally by Dallas.

After protecting a 20-13 lead with a stop by the defense, the Cowboys fell behind when Terry Glenn's fumble turned into a safety and Seattle followed with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Jerramy Stevens. With Dallas down a point with 4:24 left, Romo drove the Cowboys right back down the field and into position for the win.

He moved the Cowboys from their 28 to the Seattle 2, where a pass to Jason Witten was initially ruled a first down before a replay showed the Cowboys were short. Parcells seemed tempted to go for it on fourth-and-1, leaving his offense on the field until Seattle called a timeout. Then he sent in Gramatica, the late-season replacement for Mike Vanderjagt who'd already made the coach look good by hitting from 50 and 29 yards.

Romo - who has been holding since last season, long before he ever threw a pass in the NFL - caught the snap cleanly but didn't put it down right.

Gramatica never swung his leg, instead forced to get out of the way as Romo picked up the ball and darted left to try to make up for his mistake.

He never made it, getting stopped at the 2 on an ankle tackle by Jordan Babineaux. His last-minute interception set up Seattle's game-winning kick the last time Dallas played here.

"I just tried to walk him down," Babineaux said. "I grabbed him by the ankles, saved the tackle. It was very huge."

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