GREEN BAY – The debate will rage on across America for at least the next week, and it will be remembered long after that.
In the Cowboys' hushed locker room at Lambeau Field, though, there was no debating Dez Bryant – he made the catch.
"I don't even understand why it was even a challenge," a stunned Bryant said after the game.
The Packers and the game's officiating crew clearly didn't agree, as Bryant's critical fourth quarter catch was reversed, sparking debate across the country. On a critical 4th-and-2 with roughly four minutes remaining and Dallas trailing, 26-21, Tony Romo lofted a fade to Bryant in one-on-one coverage.
"The coverage they gave us, yes. I knew it was coming," Bryant said.
Bryant, who was largely limited on the day, appeared to snag the ball with his fingertips. After reeling it in near the 5-yard line, he extended toward the goal line. As he stretched for what would have assuredly been one of the best touchdowns of his career, the ball came loose.
"I thought it was a catch," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. "Frankly, it never occurred to me that it would be reviewed for a catch."
It was reviewed, and it was overturned by head official Gene Steratore. Steratore and the league office determined that Bryant didn't maintain possession all the way through the catch. That decision echoes the infamous "Calvin Johnson Rule," when the Detroit receiver was stripped of a touchdown under similar circumstances in 2010.
"We deemed that by our judgment to be the full process of the catch, and at the time he lands and the ball hits the ground, it comes loose as it hits the ground, which would make that incomplete," Steratore said.
For a moment, the Cowboys had been on the goal line with a chance to take a critical lead. Instead, the Packers took over and ran out the clock.
"Losing like that – we had to lose like that?" Bryant asked.
It would be an understatement to call it a cruel ending. The timing is ironic, too, as the Cowboys benefited from a judgment call that helped them ease past the Lions last week in the wildcard round.
"Any time we've got interpretation in our rules, it happens," Jones said. "The judgment on the field, we have a principle that prevails and it has to be overturned by pretty strong evidence. I didn't see it on that play."
Jones' interpretation of the situation was a mild one compared to Bryant, who spoke to reporters on two separate occasions about the play. Asked about Romo's decision to look for him downfield – a low-percentage play – he emphasized his stance.
"I know when we call a certain play -- regardless of what it is – and he throws it to me, he expects me to come down with the ball. That's exactly what I did," he said.
In a further twist of fate, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones – a member of the NFL Competition Committee – has actually voted on the Calvin Johnson Rule in the past. Jones said he thought Bryant did enough to prove it was a catch, but he acknowledged it was open to interpretation.
"It's a debatable deal. I will say it's a tough call," Jones said. "It's one we spend ad nauseam hours and hours and hours of trying to figure out this Megatron play. There are others that get a lot of time spent on them, but that one is right at the top.''
Given his extensive history of making acrobatic catches, Bryant made a point that will require some research. At one point in the media session, the fifth-year wide out was asked if he's ever made a similar catch that was not overruled.
"Too many times. Too many, too many, too many times. I guarantee you we could pull up a lot of clips – touchdowns, too," he said.
All of that will serve as cold comfort for the Cowboys, as the NFL playoffs move on without them. For Bryant, though, there isn't much to debate.