Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys, a collection of stories from the Cowboys’ locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.
GREEN BAY, Wisc. – The one word used to describe Dez Bryant more than any other, ended up hurting him in the end.
Bryant was too much of a beast on Sunday – at least for the NFL refs and replay officials.
Now let me say this – if you guys have read my stuff over the years, or listened to the podcasts or even know me personally, you should know how much I hate to blame the refs or calls. I think things typically have a way of evening out.
But in this case, Sunday's game came down to a pivotal moment in the game and personally, I think Dez Bryant was simply too much of a beast.
Normal receivers don't do what Bryant did on fourth-and-3 with the game on the line. Now we've seen athletic receivers go up and make acrobatic catches. And we've seen players stretch out for the goal line with the ball. But all in one motion?
See, that's the problem I have with this rule – there's no room for gray area. To me, this isn't about whether or not the ball hit the ground or whether or not Dez had full possession of the ball when his body hit.
This is about how many steps does a player need to have to prove that he's got the ball. This was a catch, a cupping of the ball and then a lunge for the end zone – all in one motion.
That's exactly what Dez did, coming down with a catch that should've put the ball on the 1-yard line, if not a touchdown. Actually, if I'm going to go with my theory that he had the catch and was reaching for the end zone, then honestly, it should've been a fumble and a recovery in the end zone for the go-ahead score.
That's where Dez's athletic prowess got the best of him. If he goes up, catches the ball and simply goes to the ground, then it'll be first-and-goal from the inside the 5. Now that would've been a great scenario for the Cowboys, trailing by five with about four minutes to go.
But that's not in Dez's DNA. He's not made that way. He didn't lead the league in TD receptions because he likes to come down with the catch and be safe with the ball. No, he's thinking score, score, score and that's what he was thinking here.
And he can think that way because his body can torque that way. Catch, cradle and dive. All in one motion.
To me, that's the definition of a football-move if I've ever seen one. He wasn't worried about completing the catch. To him, that was a done deal. It was onto the end zone. I keep thinking about a basketball dunker getting ready for the alley-oop. Catching the ball is just part of the process but once it's done you're already in the motion of slamming it home.
That's really what cost the Cowboys in this case. Dez made the catch and had it secured and was already lunging it out towards the goal line before it popped out when his arm hit the ground.
I'm all for adhering to the rules, but clearly, they've got to change the rules then. In no way can you look at that replay and say "nope, Dez didn't catch that." And the same goes for Calvin Johnson on his touchdown two years ago that got overruled because he didn't have complete control when he got up from the end zone. These guys are catching the ball. The officials have to figure out a way not to rob these players who are making unbelievable plays.
After the game, I felt really bad for Dez and these players, but especially Dez. It's one thing to just come to Lambeau and get beat. And who knows, the Cowboys might not have stopped Aaron Rodgers on the ensuing drive. But with four minutes to go in the game, the Cowboys and Packers were in the middle of a back-and-forth affair and Dez did his part to put the Cowboys in the lead. It's a shame the officials, both in Green Bay and New York changed the call.
Actually, I kind of thought about this scenario earlier this week. I think it was Thursday when the NFL announced that yet another call wasn't made, helping the Cowboys get past the Lions last Sunday. The more I thought about all that, I just couldn't help but wonder how things might shake out if, perhaps, by chance, the Cowboys and Packers came down to a crucial call on the field – one that might decide the outcome of the game and a season.
And there it was. Say what you want about the Cowboys had their chances to win and missed too many opportunities throughout the game or that these playoff games don't really come down to one play – but sometimes they do. In my opinion, all of these games are decided by a play or two and this one was no different.
Again, I'm not trying to say the officials cost the Cowboys the game. Just like last week when they didn't cost the Lions their game. But what they did this team a chance to go win the game with four minutes to go.
Not to mention wiping out one of the more acrobatic, freakish plays you'll ever see.
But as it turned out, maybe it was too freakish.