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It was an amazing feeling
For a play that happened so fast, it had a lasting effect.
As Martin Gramatica was positioning himself for what would be a chip shot of a game-winning field goal, the inexplicable unfolded before a nail-gnashing, eyes-peeking-through-hands-covered-faces crowd of 68,058 at Qwest Field. Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback who doubled as Gramatica’s holder, bobbled the snap, retrieved the ball and took off to his left – 2 yards shy of the goal line and just 1 away from picking up a first down.
That’s also when the Seahawks’ Jordan Babineaux darted in from right side, somehow avoided a block by the Cowboys’ kicker and – after an all-out lung that left him parallel to the turf – tripped up Romo. Short of the goal line. Short of the first down. Just shy of victory.
|More: Decade in Review|
|• "It was an amazing feeling"
• Call him "Biggest play Babs"
• Hulu: Watch Game Recap
• NFL.com: Game Highlights
• Offensive nominees
• Defensive nominees
• Special team nominees
• Player of the decade anatomy
Because Romo couldn’t hold onto the ball for the 19-yard field goal attempt, or outrun Babineaux, the Seahawks hung on for a 21-20 victory in that wildest of wild-card playoff games following the 2006 season.
Seahawks.com asked readers to vote for the best plays of the just-completed decade – the most-successful 10-year stretch in franchise history – and Babineaux’s game-saving stop was the runaway winner.
“It did happen fast,” Babineaux said this week. “I’d say the biggest thing was that I was able to avoid Gramatica from getting enough of me to get Romo. If he had made the block, Romo would have walked in.
“It was crazy, man. I still remember how loud the stadium was when Romo went down. The place just erupted.”
Babineaux, who was holding his nine-month-old daughter, Jaida, while recounting the play, then paused and smiled before adding, “It was an amazing feeling.”
From her perch in section 147, row O, lucky seat 13 of the Hawks’ Nest – the bleachers that loom above the north end zone at Qwest – season-ticket holder Phyllis Manzano watched in dismay and then disbelief as the play unfold before her.
|Best of the Best|
The top vote-getters and percentage generators in Seahawks.com’s poll to determine the top plays from the just-completed decade:
|Overall by votes|
|Shaun Alexander’s 88-yard TD run||1,380|
|Jordan Babineaux stopping Tony Romo||1,264|
|Marcus Trufant’s interception return||931|
|Jordan Babineaux’s interception return||574|
|Shaun Alexander’s 1-yard TD run||546|
|Jordan Babineaux stopping Tony Romo||.850|
|Marcus Trufant’s interception return||.536|
|Shaun Alexander’s 88-yard TD run||.514|
|Jordan Babineaux’s interception return||.331|
|Shaun Alexander’s 1-yard TD run||.203|
“To tell you the truth, I was so nervous,” Manzano said this week, recalling what she witnessed that January afternoon from the fourth row of the Hawks’ Nest. “Like everyone else, I was thinking, ‘OK, he’s going to kick the field goal and we’re going to lose the game.’ ”
It was a sentiment shared by those in the press box, as well as on the field.
“My thought was, ‘This can’t really be happening. Is this really happening?’ ” Babineaux said of seeing Romo running away from him. “You go through about 1,000 thoughts at the same time. Then it was like, ‘I’ve got to get him. I’d better hurry up.’ So I just laid out.”
Babineaux did get him and, quicker than anyone could mutter “Cowboys win,” it was the Seahawks who were advancing to the next round of the playoffs.
“I was shaking,” Manzano said. “It happened so fast. At first, I thought, ‘What the hell are they faking it for?’ Then someone said, ‘No, he bobbled the ball.’ Then I saw him running. I just said, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’
“I just stood up and I was screaming. Then Babineaux got him. I’ll never forget that. It was so awesome.”
What Manzano, and everyone else, witnessed that day was not only a memorable event, but a historic one.
The balloting for plays of the decade was separated into offensive, defensive and special teams. But Babineaux’s heads-up/Romo-down effort collected 85 percent of the votes among the special teams plays, or 1,264 votes when the tally was completed Wednesday night. Shaun Alexander’s 88-yard touchdown run against the Arizona Cardinals in 2005 garnered more votes (1,380), but only 51 percent of those cast for best offensive play. For some reason, the offensive plays generated roughly 1,200 more votes than the special teams plays.
So the overwhelming percentage for Babineaux’s play, as well as him collecting 116 fewer votes when the gap between those cast in each category was so large, makes it the overall winner.
“I’ll tell you why it got 85 percent, because I went on there and voted like 200 times,” Babineaux cracked.
In some ways, this one was over before it ever began. As Mike said in the comments section of the story about the defensive plays of the decade, “The play of the decade should be Babineaux stopping Romo short of the goal line on the botched field goal. That was huge!”
The story with the nominees for special teams play of the decade didn’t run on website until the next day.
“It just goes to show what I’ve always said,” Babineaux offered through a grin, “we have very intelligent fans.”