By the end of the season, neither the Dallas Cowboys or the Seattle Seahawks looked destined for the playoffs. Seattle had won only their last of four games, and Dallas was on a two-game losing streak after ending the season with a lost to Detroit. Both teams were 9-7, but momentum was in Seattle's favor.
Seattle won the toss and ended their first possession with a 23-yard field goal from Josh Brown. Dallas achieved nothing on their first drive, but cornerback Anthony Henry picked off Matt Hasselbeck's next pass intended for Deion Branch and gave them a second chance which ended in a 50-yard field goal for Martin Gramatica.
Seattle added a 30-yard field goal in the middle of the second quarter, but Dallas put together a 10 play, 76 yard touchdown drive that put the Cowboys on top 10-6 at the half.
The Hawks came back in their first drive of the third quarter, driving 62 yards with two fourth-down conversions and ending in a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jerramy Stevens. Seattle regained the lead, but Dallas' Miles Austin came right back and returned the following kickoff, barely touched, 93 yards for a touchdown.
After Gramatica added another field goal for 29 yards in the fourth quarter, Seattle found themselves trailing 20-13 with ten minutes left in the game. Seattle came back and got to the Cowboys' one yard line, but Dallas' defense held and Seattle turned the ball over after a failed pass on fourth down.
Then Dallas imploded.
On their first snap, Tony Romo passed to Terry Glenn, but Seattle's cornerback Kelly Jennings forced a fumble. The ball rolled into the end zone, in and out of several Seattle players until Michael Boulware recovered it for a touchdown. After review it is ruled a safety after Lofa Tatupu had stepped out of bounds trying to recover the ball.
Trailing 20-15, Seattle got the ball back with over six minutes remaining. Nate Burleson returned the ball 19 yards to the 50 yard line, and four plays later Matt Hasselbeck connected again with Jerramy Stevens for a 37-yard touchdown. The Hawks tried to make it a three-point game, but failed to make the two-point conversion.
All the Cowboys needed was a field goal to win.
Terrell Owens helped get them into Seattle territory, but Julius Jones ripped a 35-yard run to put the Cowboys well within field-goal range. With two minutes left, Dallas just missed a first down at Seattle's two yard line, forcing a field goal attempt.
Victory may have been in their grasp, but the ball wasn't in Romo's on the snap. He fumbled, and scrambled toward the end zone, but Jordan “Big Play Babs” Babineaux lived up to his nickname and tripped him up at the two.
Seattle burned up all but seven seconds before being forced to give the ball back to Dallas. Romo had one last snap with two seconds on the clock. He lobbed the ball into the end zone, but came up empty.
Seattle just barely won 21-20.
ESPN's John Buccigross later commented that “you can't spell steal without Seattle.” I'm pretty sure he meant that the other way around, but I also add you can't steal what was handed to you. In a post-game interview, Seattle running back Mack Strong could only explain the dramatic turn of events by stating his belief that the Seahawks are a team of destiny. Only time will tell for sure, but this was a convincing first step.
The Eagles' Sunday night 23-20 victory over the Giants means the Seahawks will face the Bears next weekend on Sunday morning. Earlier in the season when the Seahawks faced the Bears, Chicago destroyed the Seahawks 37-6, but that was without Shaun Alexander.
"I always think Shaun Alexander would have made a difference," coach Mike Holmgren said after the October defeat. Next Sunday will be the test.