This week at SB Nation, we are talking about great moments in our team’s history that were so amazing that you remember where you were and what you were doing when they happened. For Redskins fans, this is somewhat difficult. I mean, I could go all the way back and talk about “4th and 1” or Darryl Grant running a tipped ball into the end zone, but I wanted something more recent. I could go negative with a memory we can’t get out of our minds like the double timeout or game-winners caught over Reed Doughty (whom I love).
No, today I am asking you about one of the more improbably wins we have ever witnessed in this more modern age of Redskins fandom. It was an early November game in 2006, and the Dallas Cowboys were in town to collect a win that everyone seemed to think was theirs without the game even being played. I was in my seat at FedEx enjoying an awesome weather day—sunny and cool, making for an epic November tailgate.
Bill Parcells had led the Cowboys to the edge of victory despite all of his carefully calculated errors—Dallas gave up a safety in their first drive, and missed a 2-point conversion that people argued over whether he should have attempted. It was Tony Romo’s second start and he had played halfway decently, certainly well enough for Dallas to leave Washington with a 5-3 record instead of a 4-4 record.
With 31 seconds to go and the game tied 19-19, Nick Novak (local Maryland product) came out to attempt a game-winner from 49 yards out. The miss left the stadium gutted, as we desperately wanted to beat our rival, but the Skins were also in the midst of a three-game losing streak. When the Washington special teams unit left the field, we weren’t feeling very optimistic, but the stadium stayed uncharacteristically full in the closing seconds of a tied game.
Tony Romo managed to get the Cowboys into position for them to try a game-winner and none other than Mike Vanderjagt trotted out for the 35-yarder with SIX seconds left. Vanderjagt was money at that point and was 5-for-5 on fourth quarter attempts that season. Recently signed Troy Vincent got around the corner and blocked the kick, which sent the crowd into a frenzy as the ball kind of jumped around in the backfield.
Seemingly out of NOWHERE, Sean Taylor becomes the guy closest to the ball, scoops it up and starts running like he is playing in a backyard game. I mean, he is fast enough to beat pretty much everyone down the field, but what I remember was that he seemed to face contact right away as he picked up the ball. He weaved more than he bee-lined, and it felt like he had guys trying to tackle him the whole way. One of those guy was Dallas’ Kyle Kosier who made the play memorialized in today’s lead image. The facemark pull was seen by everyone in the stadium and there was an audible response to it happening, even though Sean wasn’t quite tackled yet. His return was ultimately not good enough to end the game, but the yellow flag was making us all nuts.
As the referees conferred, I was doing the math: the 15-yard penalty was going to set up what could be a 47-yard attempt for Nick Novak. Only problem was...there was no time left on the clock. All you could hear at FedEx in that moment was, “THE GAME CAN’T END ON A DEFENSIVE PENALTY!!!!”
We at least knew that. Hahah.
The referee announced that there would be one more play, untimed. You would have thought FedEx was the site of the Super Bowl.
Nick Novak goes back onto the field and squeaks one through...really just narrowly tucking the ball inside the goalpost. He turned and ran all the way down the field, getting caught and tackled by the entire Redskins bench. we in the stands couldn’t control ourselves. We didn’t get to see many wins period, much less wins over a team we despised.
It was an absolutely amazing feeling that I won’t ever forget, and though Nick Novak got crazy love, it was quintessential Sean Taylor magic that we all witnessed. He did what he always did—he got to the ball. When he got there, he scooped it at full speed. After he had the ball, he actually turned and ran in the opposite direction for a second, kind of picking his lane to turn and charge before violently making his way down the field.
He was the kind of football player that you paid whatever the ticket cost to see him. If he was going to be on the field, you were going to see something special. On this day, what we saw was a win stolen from the Cowboys by a team that probably shouldn’t have been able to do that.
Where were you?