OAKLAND, Calif. –Nobody knows this truth about pro football better than Dez Bryant.
"It's a game of inches," the Cowboys receiver said after Sunday night's improbable, incredible finish at the Oakland Coliseum.
Three years ago, NFL official Gene Steratore's crew overturned the infamous "Dez Catch" in the Cowboys' crushing NFC divisional-round loss at Lambeau Field.
This time, with the game on the line against the Oakland Raiders, a call by Steratore kept the Cowboys' season alive.
He confirmed a paper-thin fourth-and-1 conversion with quite possibly an unprecedented method: the use of an index card to help measure that the ball was in fact past the chains.
Three plays later, quarterback Dak Prescott and Bryant connected on a perfect back-shoulder throw and catch for a 40-yard gain led to Dan Bailey's deciding field goal in a 20-17 victory.
Bryant had only one catch for 19 yards before that play – the product of extra attention from the Raiders' defense. He was also the intended receiver on the first of Prescott's two interceptions in the game.
"At halftime I asked (Raiders) Coach Jack Del Rio, 'Hey man, what's up with all this doubling? Let's play some football.' Just joking," Bryant said. "They gave us one-on-one one time, and they paid for it."
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was pleased with Bryant's resiliency throughout the game.
"He's a veteran player. He's had a lot of success through his career, and a big part of that is the mental toughness to play through those things," Garrett said. "He did a really nice job tonight and again, made a real difference making the play."
Bryant said he'd heard that Steratore would officiate Sunday's game. It might have been a provocative subplot to a must-win game for both teams, but ultimately it had no effect on Bryant's approach.
"I didn't pay attention it. I just cared about what was going on at the time," he said. "I know he still thinks about that when he goes to sleep at night. But we got that W tonight. So I guess that replaces that.
Bryant thought about his last statement, then smiled.
"Well, nothing ever will replace that," he said. "But I'm happy we got the W."
Three years since the "Dez Catch," Bryant got some measure of satisfaction: The Cowboys' 2017 playoff hopes live on.