For Cowboys, Romo, it’s oh, no!


SEATTLE (AP) – All Tony Romo had to do was put the ball down and let Martin Gramatica make a short kick. He couldn’t do it – and the Seattle Seahawks are still alive in the NFL playoffs.

Romo’s botched hold on a 19-yard field goal try with 1:19 left forced the Pro Bowl quarterback to scramble left, but he was tackled at the 2 and the Seahawks escaped with a 21-20 victory in the wildest of wild-card games Saturday night.

“It looked like it was a pretty good snap. He was the holder all year,” Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said.

“We were in position to win if we could just execute the extra point.”

Seattle trailed 20-13 after getting stopped on fourth-and-goal with about 6:40 to go, but rallied thanks to a Dallas fumble-turned-safety on the next snap and a 37-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Jerramy Stevens on the ensuing drive.

Romo 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. Dallas still had its offense on the field after being told it was fourth down, then sent in Gramatica – who already had made kicks of 50 and 29 yards – to win it.

At least, that was the plan.

Romo was stopped on a shoestring tackle by Jordan Babineaux. The Seahawks still had to get away from the shadow of their goal line to protect the victory, but did so right away with Shaun Alexander running through the middle for 20 yards.

Seattle milked the clock to 8 seconds before a punt that gave Dallas one last chance from the 50.

Romo scrambled, weaving right then left, and heaved it into the end zone. The ball bounced away, with Terrell Owens among the Cowboys who failed to grab it.

“Some unusual things happened. That’s the playoffs for you,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said.

Seattle’s rabid fans smacked together the Shrek-colored gloves they’d been given for their loudest cheer of the night, already dreaming of another long playoff run like the one that lasted all the way to the Super Bowl last season.

Romo, meanwhile, walked off by himself, head down. His storybook rise from unknown backup to starlet-dating Pro Bowler ended in the worst imaginable way.

The Cowboys remain without a playoff win since 1996. They’re 0-for-2 under Parcells and might have played their last game for him. If so, his four-year tenure would end with three straight losses and four in his last five games.

“I’m going to take a look at things, take a look at what we need to do, and go from there,” Parcells said.

Seattle will play on the road next weekend, the foe determined by the Philadelphia-New York Giants game Sunday. If the Eagles win, the Seahawks play at Chicago. If the Giants win, the Seahawks play at New Orleans.

As bizarre as this finish was, it was only the second-craziest of the season for Dallas. On Nov. 5, the Cowboys lost 22-19 to Washington after a last-second field goal was blocked and a flag on the return let the Redskins kick the winner with no time left.

But the punch to the gut of that loss was nothing compared to this one. This one will haunt Dallas at least until next season and likely until the longest postseason drought in franchise history ends – whenever that is.

And Romo will have to live with one of the most memorable blunders in playoff history.

“That’s about as automatic a play, as a coach, as you have. It’s unbelievable,” Holmgren said. “And then, he’s a good athlete. He started running. I thought he might get in, but we got him.”

Hasselbeck was 18-of-36 for 240 yards with two touchdowns, both to Stevens, and two interceptions, both of which resulted in Dallas field goals.

“I didn’t play very well in the first half. I was trying not to take sacks,” Hasselbeck said. “At halftime they said, ‘Trust your protection more, step into your throws.’ The guys up front played really well.”

Alexander ran 24 times for 69 yards. His 20-yard burst at the end was his longest of the game.

Romo was 17-of-29 for 189 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t have any turnovers after a spurt of them in recent weeks, although he did fumble once. And, of course, there was the botched snap that mattered most.

“It was perfect,” Alexander said. “Just how we planned it.”

Gramatica was nearly the star of the game, not only for the would’ve-been-winner but for his 50-yarder on the opening series. Dallas signed him late in the season after Parcells gave up on Mike Vanderjagt, the most accurate kicker in league history.

Another hero would’ve been Miles Austin, an undrafted rookie who had the first kickoff return for a touchdown in Cowboys playoff history. His 93-yarder put Dallas up 17-13 in the third quarter only 11 seconds after the Seahawks had gone ahead.

The Cowboys’ defense was way better than usual, too. They allowed only two first-half field goals, their stingiest half in eight games, and kept Seattle from ever getting into a groove.

Dallas is 0-5 in the playoffs since winning a wild-card game at Minnesota on Dec. 28, 1996. The Cowboys had never lost more than three straight postseason games.

Parcells had never even lost two straight playoff games before this 0-3 drought. In 2003, his first year in Dallas, he became the only coach to guide four teams into the playoffs, but another loss kept him from upping that mark to the only coach to win playoff games with four clubs.

“I did the best I could,” Parcells said. “It wasn’t quite good enough.”

Holmgren won his 12th career playoff game, tying Bill Cowher for fifth-best in NFL history.

AP-ES-01-06-07 2354EST