- Terry Blount, ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter
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SEATTLE -- Trailing by seven points midway through the fourth quarter, Seattle had first-and-goal at the Dallas 1. The result? Zero.
Within moments of that debacle, the Seahawks had a one-point lead.
In a stunning set of circumstances, Seattle transformed a goal-line disaster into a stunning 21-20 playoff game victory over the Cowboys on Saturday night at Qwest Field.
You had to see it to believe it.
How did it happen? It took a Cowboys fumble for a Seattle safety, an offensive play of the game by Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens and a botched chip-shot field goal attempt by Dallas with 1:19 to go. In one of the bigger gaffes in playoff history, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo dropped the snap on the 19-yard field goal attempt, picked up the ball and was tackled at Seattle's 2.
"I don't know guys, I really don't," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. "If you coach long enough, you wind up seeing most things. This is another one for the journal. That was a crazy game. Some unusual things happened, but that's the playoffs for you."
The Seahawks (10-7) advance to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. The Cowboys end the season 9-8.
The bizarre finish started after Dallas took over at its 2-yard line with 6:42 to go, leading 20-13. Receiver Terry Glenn caught a sideline pass at the 2 but fumbled when he was hit by Seattle rookie Kelly Jennings.
But Dallas coach Bill Parcells challenged the call. Replays showed Tatupu's foot was out of bounds when he tipped it to Boulware. The play was ruled a safety and Seattle trailed 20-15.
Three plays after the Dallas punt, Seattle had a first-and-10 at the Cowboys' 37. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck found Stevens between the safeties on a post route for the touchdown.
"Mike Holmgren called a red-zone play even though we weren't in the red zone," Hasselbeck said. "Dallas had a two-deep zone, so Jeremy had to run a perfect pattern and he did. He made a great play."
Seattle went for two, but Hasselbeck's pass sailed out of the end zone, leaving the Seahawks with a 21-20 lead with 4:24 to go.
The wildest moment of the game was yet to come. Dallas drove down the field and had a third-and-7 at the Seattle 8-yard line. Romo found tight end Jason Witten over the middle at the 1.
Officials ruled it first-and-goal for the Cowboys, but the replay booth challenged the call. Replays appeared to show Witten was down inches short of a first down.
Martin Gramatica came in to attempt at 19-yard field goal that would have given Dallas a two-point lead, but Romo dropped the ball when he tried to place it for the kick. He quickly grabbed it and ran to an opening on his left. He reached the 2-yard line when Jordan Babineaux made the tackle to stop him.
Holmgren couldn't believe it.
"That's as automatic a play as you have in this game," he said. "That just doesn't happen. But [Romo] is a good athlete, so when he started running, I thought he might get in, but we caught him."
It wasn't pretty for the Seahawks, but they are two victories from reaching the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year.
"We're not that team," Hasselbeck said of last season's Seahawks. "Not at all. But it's so much fun to play with these guys. It's time to be the new team and play better."
This Seattle team has battled injuries all season. Nine offensive starters missed regular-season games. The Seahawks played the Cowboys without their top three cornerbacks. And receivers Darrell Jackson and D.J. Hackett went down with injuries Saturday night.
"This is the greatest persevering team I've ever been a part of," said running back Shaun Alexander, who missed six games this season. "A true champion just fights no matter what's going on. We keep on coming. We just will our way to win."
Even if it takes a few miraculous moments to get it done.
In one of the more bizarre finishes in NFL playoff history, Seattle snuck away with a 21-20 win over Dallas.