ARLINGTON, Texas –As he lay on the turf just outside the Cowboys end zone, with some 94,000 fans going wild over the signature play of his young career, Dez Bryant must have felt he had died and gone to heaven.
Just a few minutes later, he probably thought he'd gone the other direction. The third-year receiver had his would-be game-winning 37-yard touchdown catch overturned when a video replay revealed his right hand came down out of bounds before he landed on his rear in the end zone, cradling the ball he'd snatched away from two Giants defenders in one of the wildest games in team history.
"When they took it away, my heart just dropped," Bryant said. "The ball was thrown to me – I don't care. I want to come down with it, and I came down with it, and I thought I was in. It's frustrating."
Bryant injured his hip on the play, and sat out the next two snaps, but came in for the final heave into the end zone. He finished the game with five catches for 110 yards, including one 55-yard grab that helped the Cowboys climb back into the contest, but the production was overshadowed again by his mistakes. Bryant fumbled a punt in the first quarter, which the Giants cashed in for a touchdown, and was stripped of his return duties until the final minute, when a big return was in desperate need.
"It's the mistakes that will lose the ballgame," owner Jerry Jones said in reference to Bryant. "The big plays don't win the games as much as the mistakes lose the ballgame. That's the way throughout the positions on the team, certainly that's the case there."
Just a week ago, Bryant's failure to secure the ball on a punt return created doubts he could be trusted with the job. He was replaced by Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley after Sunday's fumble.
"It's just something I need to keep practicing, just keep my focus and stop trying to go before having the (ball)," Bryant said. "(Jones) is absolutely right. We've just got to eliminate the mistakes."
Bryant was also partially responsible for the first of four Tony Romo interceptions. On a first down play during the Cowboys' first possession, he ran an in-cutting route and appeared to be open for the quarterback, but said he was too off balance to flatten his route and stay in front of the New York defender.
Through seven games, Bryant has 41 receptions for 488 yards and two touchdowns. But at the end Sunday, he just barely missed out on a 42nd catch, 525th yard and third touchdown, as the Cowboys missed out on their fourth win of the year, one that would've gone down as an all-time classic.
"Tony made a great throw and Dez made a great catch," head coach Jason Garrett said. "Probably just missed it by an inch or so."