For the second straight week, the Dallas Cowboys’ season came down to a decision by the referee.
On Sunday they were not the beneficiaries after Dez Bryant’s 31-yard catch was overturned via replay by referee Gene Steratore. Instead of being a yard away from a potential game-winning touchdown, the Cowboys saw the Green Bay Packers run out the clock on the ensuing drive in the 26-21 divisional-round victory.
As a result, the Packers will move on to the NFC Championship Game next week at the Seattle Seahawks, and the Cowboys will have to spend the offseason wondering “what if.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett would not pin the loss on the overturned call, but he disagreed with Steratore’s ruling.
“I thought Tony (Romo) made a great throw, Dez made a great catch on the ball,” Garrett said. “Obviously it was ruled a catch at the outset. It looked like to me he had three feet down. What they describe to us all the time is ‘a move common to the game,’ and Dez reached out for the goal line like he’s done so many times. It’s a signature play for him. He maintained possession of it throughout, in my opinion.
“But let me make it really clear: This game wasn’t about the officiating. We had 60 minutes. We had an opportunity to come up here and win a football game, and at the end of the day we didn’t get that job done. That play was big in the game, but there were other plays in the game and unfortunately we didn’t do the things necessary to win the ballgame.”
Steratore said there were numerous angles that showed the ball hitting the ground and did not agree with Garrett’s assertion that Bryant made a move common to the game. After consultation with the New York offices, Steratore decided to change the call.
“Although the receiver is possessing the football, he must maintain possession of that football throughout the entire process of the catch,” Steratore said in a pool report. “In our judgment he maintained possession but continued to fall and never had another act common to the game. 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. Although he re-possesses it, it does contact the ground when he reaches so the repossession is irrelevant because it was ruled an incomplete pass when he had the ball hit the ground.”