Dallas Cowboys’ Season Ends After Bryant’s Catch Is Overturned – Businessweek

Posted: Monday, January 12, 2015

The Dallas Cowboys’ season is over after a
catch by Dez Bryant that wasn’t.

The Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers 26-21 in their
second-round National Football League playoff game yesterday
after a fourth-down reception by Bryant was overturned by
officials following a video review. Instead of having possession
at Green Bay’s 1-yard line with about four minutes left, Dallas
never got the ball back again.

A week earlier, the Cowboys rallied to beat the Detroit
Lions 24-20 in their first-round playoff game after a pass
interference penalty against them was overturned in the closing
minutes. At Lambeau Field, they came out on the wrong end of the
late-game ruling.

“If we have to lose like that, they can have it,” a
teary-eyed Bryant told reporters in the Cowboys’ locker room.

The Packers, led by three touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers, advance to the National Football Conference
championship game against the defending Super Bowl-champion
Seattle Seahawks. Bryant and many of the Cowboys head to the
offseason frustrated and confused, feelings similar to those
voiced by many on the Lions a week earlier.

It also put a spotlight on the officials for the second
straight week in the NFL’s postseason.

“Whenever they go to the replay, you hope for the best and
obviously it didn’t turn out that way,” said Cowboys
quarterback Tony Romo, who threw two touchdown passes. “The
season is over and that’s the biggest disappointment. The calls
don’t go your way sometimes and that’s part of the game.’

Overturned Catch

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos also had their season
end in disappointment, losing 24-13 at home against the
Indianapolis Colts. The Colts advance to face the New England
Patriots in the American Football Conference championship.

The Cowboys trailed by five points with just under five
minutes left when Romo lofted a deep pass to Bryant on a 4th-and-2 play from the Packers’ 32-yard line. Bryant, who set a
franchise record for receiving touchdowns this season, out-jumped cornerback Sam Shields for the ball, then took a few
steps as he landed and reached out for the goal line. As his
left arm hit the turf, the ball popped free and Bryant caught it
in mid-air as he laid on his back in the end zone.

Officials marked Bryant down at the 1-yard line — in
position to potentially regain the lead — when Packers coach
Mike McCarthy threw a red flag to signal a challenge. After a
video review, referee Gene Steratore overturned the catch,
citing a rule that a player must maintain contact of the ball
throughout the process of contacting the ground.

The crowd at Lambeau Field erupted in celebration as Bryant
stood on the field with his hands on his head and his mouth open
in amazement. He said afterward that he never considered the
play might be overturned.

‘‘I just knew we had an opportunity to take the lead,”
Bryant said. “It was a catch and they took it away.”

Confident, Hopeful

McCarthy said he got to watch the play several times on the
stadium’s video screen before throwing the red flag, a coaches’
challenge he called both confident and hopeful. It was the first
time all season the Packers won a challenge.

“It was an incredible — I don’t want to say catch, but
play — by Dez Bryant,” McCarthy said at his televised post-game news conference. “The ball bounced our way.”

New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was among the
current NFL players to comment on the play, writing on Twitter
that he has no idea how it wasn’t a catch and calling the ruling
“a joke.” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said it came down to the
judgment of the replay officials, but in his opinion, “We made
the play.”

Dean Blandino, the NFL’s Vice President of Officiating,
said that Bryant, by rule, had to hold onto the ball throughout
the entire process of contacting the ground. Because he didn’t,
it was an incomplete pass.

Rules Consistency

“I understand the people who say it looks like a catch and
I don’t think it’s that far-fetched,” Blandino said on NFL
Network. “But in order to be consistent, we have to draw the
line somewhere and that’s where the current line is.”

Blandino last week acknowledged that officials missed a
defensive holding penalty against the Cowboys on the
controversial play in which pass interference was overturned.
Dallas then drove for the winning touchdown to send the Lions to
a record-tying eighth consecutive playoff loss.

The ruling yesterday in Green Bay was reminiscent of an
overturned reception that had gone against the Lions in 2010. In
Week 1 of that season, Calvin Johnson pulled down a go-ahead
touchdown pass and had clear possession, yet lost the ball when
he touched it to the ground.

The Lions’ official Twitter site alluded to that play after
yesterday’s game, with a message that said, “Sorry
@dallascowboys. We know the feeling.”

Control vs Possession

Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former head of officiating and now
a rules analyst for Fox, said on the network’s broadcast that
while Bryant had clear control, possession was another matter.

“If you’re going to the ground, you have to prove that you
have the ball long enough to perform an act common to the game
and do that,” Pereira said. “That’s the one thing they’ve been
consistent on even though we don’t like the rule. That was the
right call.”

Bryant and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett were among those who
remained unconvinced.

“It looked to me like Dez had two feet down and made a
move common to the game, which is a thing they talk about a
lot,” Garrett said. “We’ve seen him a number of times this
year reach out and score touchdowns making that same play. It
seemed like he had the ball at the end of the play as well. All
those things factor into it.”

Review Planned

Blandino said replay officials determined that when Bryant
extended the ball toward the goal line, it was part of his
momentum in going to the ground. When Bryant lost the ball as he
hit the ground, it made the pass incomplete.

“It’s about consistency. If we make that a catch, we have
to look at all these other plays where receivers go to the
ground and where do we draw the line?” Blandino said. “It’s
something that we’ll review with the competition committee. We
review every year.”

The Packers took possession after the 31-yard reception was
overturned and Rodgers completed two third-down passes to help
run the remaining time off the clock. It was the Cowboys’
seventh straight road playoff loss, with their last postseason
win away from home coming in the 1992 NFC Championship Game.

While the reversal helped to seal the Cowboys’ fate,
Garrett said it didn’t determine the outcome of the game.

“This game wasn’t about officiating,” Garrett said. “We
had 60 minutes to prove we were the better team. Unfortunately
we didn’t get it done.”

To contact the reporter on this story:
Erik Matuszewski in New York at
matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Michael Sillup at
msillup@bloomberg.net
Jay Beberman

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