GREEN BAY, Wis. – It speaks to the type of night Dez Bryant endured that he had another fantastic effort overturned by instant replay – but it wasn't close to being the story of his game.
On a night when the Dallas offense sputtered to just 270 total yards and just 114 yards through the air, Bryant suffered through one of the worst efforts of his impressive career. He was targeted nine times on the night and came away with just one catch for nine yards.
"Whenever you don't win, it's always bad," Bryant said. "Honestly, I just feel like there are some things we could do better at, myself included."
Bryant's miscues certainly stand out among a litany of misfires for the offense. The All-Pro receiver had several uncharacteristic drops, including one that killed a chance for Dallas to grab an early lead.
Facing a 3rd-and-3 early in the first quarter, Matt Cassel looked for Bryant on a slant – a read that looked likely to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead just five minutes into the game.
Instead, in the rainy conditions, the ball – admittedly thrown a bit high -- bounced off Bryant's hands and into the arms of waiting cornerback Sam Shields. It would end the only red zone possession of the Cowboys' night.
"It's a timing thing. I knew Matt was getting rushed a little bit. As I came around it was too late," Bryant said. "I was trying to find him and couldn't find him. Ball came out quick and I couldn't get my whole body turned around."
The most egregious error came in the third quarter, when Bryant jumped and dropped a wide open ball on 1st-and-10. The drop wiped out a nine-yard game at point when Dallas only trailed, 14-7.
"We had some opportunities that I should've made," he said. "The one I the third quarter -- I'm jupining when I shouldn't even jump."
To reiterate, it was an effort so startling that it relegated a readymade headline to secondary status. Halfway through the second quarter, Bryant made a circus catch between two Green Bay defenders, only to have it successfully overturned by a challenge from Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy.
It was a situation eerily reminiscent of last year's divisional playoff loss, when Bryant infamously had a game-changing catch overturned by a Green Bay challenge. This play, a 28-yard gain, would have set the Cowboys up on the Green Bay 34-yard line with a chance to tie the game, 7-7.
"It was a tough play. It was a really tough play," said Jason Witten. "I don't think I reflected back on last year at that point. But it was a tough, difficult play."
The similarities between the two situations made for an obvious storyline. Bryant skied between two defensive backs to make a contested grab, but the call was overturned by video evidence of the ball scraping the ground on Bryant's way down.
"I just thought if I kept my left on it and controlled it, I would get it. But it is what it is," Bryant said.
As Witten pointed out, it's the type of close call that has seemingly gone against this team all season long, as the Cowboys are now secure in their first losing record since 2010.
"Dez is the ultimate playmaker, and he's as good as there is in this league at going up," Witten said. "It's just a tough play to make. Unfortunately, it's been those type of breaks."
Given the lopsided final score, the play didn't wind up carrying nearly the same significance as Bryant's effort last January. Instead, it faded into one of a series of miscues in a game that got away – a frustration that Bryant summed up quite well himself.
"This is an opportunity that we can't get back," he said. "We have to move forward and get better."