Cowboys Fail to Seal the Deal

tono romo - dallas cowboys
Tony Romo, below, drives the Cowboys 70 yards to within chip-shot field goal range Saturday night in Seattle before fumbling the snap -- and the Cowboys' shot at a wild-card victory. (John Froschauer - AP)
By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 7, 2007

SEATTLE, Jan. 6 -- Tony Romo looked as if he was about to cry. Television lights burned into his eyes. He clutched a microphone stand with one hand and shielded his face with the other. He squinted. His voice stuttered and seemed about to crack.

He paused. One moment. Two moments. "It hurts real bad right now," the Dallas Cowboys quarterback said as he tried to digest the slip of a snap and the drop of the ball that led to the Cowboys' 21-20 wild-card playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night. "For the game to end like that and for me to be the cause hurts me a lot."

He squinted again.

"I cost the Dallas Cowboys a playoff win. It is going to stick with me for a long time," he said.

And in a moment, everything in the autumn of Tony Romo -- the magazine covers, the Jessica Simpson rumors, the premature placing of his name on the team's ring of fame -- was gone. Simply because he failed to execute the most routine of plays: the catching and holding of a ball for a field goal that was as long as an extra point.

Only 1 minute 19 seconds remained in a game the Cowboys had seemed to control, only to lose control and then look ready to take again. They were a yard from a first down at the Seahawks 1-yard line. On fourth down, place kicker Martin Gramatica stood ready to bang in the field goal that would give Dallas its first playoff win since the end of its glorious run in the mid 1990s.

But the kicker never got the chance. He said he saw the ball only for the instant Romo caught the snap from L.P. Ladouceur. Then it was gone, fumbled. And with nothing else to do and the roar of 68,058 in Qwest Field deafening, Romo started to run toward the end zone, aiming for at least the 1-yard line, where the Cowboys would get a first down and have another chance.

Instead, he was tackled just feet short of the 1 and fumbled, sending the crowd into a frenzy. The Cowboys slumped to the sideline. Shocked.

"Listen, it was a good snap," Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells said. "It was one of those things."

Moments after the victory was sealed, the Seahawks celebrated in their locker room. Several times this year, Seattle has been on the brink of defeat only to have something stunning happen at the final instant. Saturday's win might have been the most miraculous of all.

"We keep doing this; we have so much character on this team," running back Sean Alexander said.

Yet Seattle also knew it was fortunate.

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