DALLAS — The Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys face off in the wildcard playoffs on a Saturday night, and the immediately comparison everyone is drawing is to the 2006 NFC wildcard encounter between the two sides at then-Qwest Field on Jan. 6, 2007. Even the referee from that contest, Walt Anderson, will be the lead official Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
It's almost as if this week's "Memory Lane" has written itself.
Rather than focus on the game itself, there is a more interesting aspect to the game, and that is the big question: What if Tony Romo didn't bobble the snap on the go-ahead field goal?
With 1:19 to go in the game, down 21-20, the Dallas starting quarterback, who was still on holder duties because that's what a backup QB does in Bill Parcells' world, couldn't get the snap down for a 20-yard field goal. As Romo scooped up the ball and ran for the goal line around the left side, defensive back Jordan Babineaux tackled Romo for no gain and the game was seemingly over.
First of all, that is the greatest myth to come from that play. The game was hardly over. Seattle had a first-and-10 at their own 2-yard line, and Dallas had all three of their timeouts. Maybe Romo has another chance to pull off a comeback if the Dallas defense doesn't let running back Shaun Alexander bust a 20-yard gain. In fact, even with that chunk play that forced the Cowboys to use a timeout, they were still able to get the ball back.
Fun fact: the last play from that game was not the dropped snap. It was a Hail Mary pass Romo heaved into the end zone that the late Terry Glenn, an otherwise super talented wideout, watched drop to the artificial turf of Qwest Field.
Now, what if Romo isn't trying to hold a slick K-ball that a local Seattle ball boy sneaked into the rotation specifically for that play? The sheen on the ball at the moment of that field goal was worse than the glare that comes through a late October afternoon at AT&T Stadium.
In fact, the league that off-season amended the rule to where an actual NFL official, dubbed "Dr. K," would maintain which K-balls were put into the special teams rotation, not some local high school dropout. If ever given the chance to watch the complete game, take a look at how dark the K-ball is on the Cowboys' 29-yard field goal with 10:15 in the fourth quarter compared to the fateful field goal attempt.
One final thing -- the preceding three paragraphs should be common knowledge in the Dallas-Fort Worth sports commentariat. If these facts aren't acknowledged, we may as well be covering tiddlywinks, which every football coach across America has emphasized to their players that football is not.
In a more perfect world, the field goal attempt is good. However, it doesn't necessarily ensure a Cowboys victory.
To start off the game, kicker Martin Gramatica booted the opening kickoff out of bounds, so he could have done it again. But let's say he doesn't and the Seahawks have to setup shop around their average starting field position for the game, which was the 29-yard line. They still could have moved the ball easily on Dallas.
On the Seahawks' previous drive, blessed with a short field after a Glenn safety, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck led Seattle on a four-play, 50-yard scoring drive that tight end Jerramy Stevens capped off with a 37-yard touchdown grab. In the final period, Hasselbeck completed 5-of-8 for 91 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
Down 23-21, Seattle wouldn't need a touchdown to win. They could rely on their field goal kicker, Josh Brown, who was a big part of the Seahawks' game-winning drives with four victorious boots in 2006. Al Michaels even mentions this fact as Gramatica is lining up for the go-ahead field goal.
Two of Brown's field goals were 50-plus yards; one of 50 yards in Denver with five seconds remaining on Dec. 3, 2006, and the other a 54-yarder inside St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome to beat the Rams on an un-timed field goal attempt. A year prior, he beat Dallas on a 50-yard field goal attempt with five seconds left right there at Qwest Field.
Just accept that the Dallas defense may not have preserved the tenuous lead, which is actually the other theme of Romo's career.
How things would have been different is Romo wouldn't have been labeled a choker almost immediately because there wouldn't be a low light to point to where he blew it in a big game. The Cowboys may have addressed safety in a much bigger way that off-season seeing as how their back end gave up the lead to blow a playoff game. Maybe they sign Ken Hamlin, who was a Seahawk that night, but buttress the signing with a first or second round draft choice in the 2007 draft.
Parcells still would have quit. He was burned out and didn't want to go through the whole off-season hassle. Jason Garrett would still become the offensive coordinator because owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones was in love with the idea of having Troy Aikman's backup be the head coach some day.
Wade Phillips probably gets hired thereafter. There's no reason Dallas doesn't cruise to a double digit win season as they are relatively unproven with Romo under center. Whether they blow it against the Giants and become the first NFC team since 1990 to lose a divisional game as the No. 1 seed is whole other "what if."
That's the reality. There is no guarantee Dallas would have won that game had Romo held for the field goal. The only thing that would change is there wouldn't be the enduring image of backup guard Al Johnson consoling a distraught Romo being posted on Cowboys fans' social media pages by their anti-Cowboy relatives.
Unless it's too painful to conjure, you can share your memories and thoughts on that dubious night in Seattle with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.