Proof the NFL Erred in Overturning the Dez Bryant Catch

Zach Moretti@@ZMorettiFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2015

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 11:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys waits for a replay on a call late in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers during the 2015 NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The NFL overturning a superior version of the Lynn Swann catch was baffling. The fact that every pundit is echoing the same "bad rule, right call" rhetoric and leaving it at that adds to the infuriating feeling I'm unable to shake.

The NFL's rule (as presently constructed) is highly flawed indeed. It robbed Calvin Johnson of a game-winning touchdown vs. the Bears in 2010; however, the difference between Megatron's non-TD and Dez Bryant's non-catch is clear as day.

Johnson reels in a jump ball, only gets two steps down inbounds and makes no other moves or actions that signal the "the process of the catch" has been completed. When the ball jars loose as he goes to stand up, the call gets overturned and ruled incomplete.

Meanwhile, Bryant did in fact do enough by the league's own ridiculously archaic standards because he made multiple "football moves" or "acts common to the game" that should have ended the "process of the catch."

How do I know this besides my own two eyes? The league ruled as such on the exact same play with the exact same player 13 weeks prior to the NFC Divisional Round. 

Let's go back to Week 7 of this season. The Cowboys hosted the Giants on Oct. 19 in Jerry World. Bryant was a monster (9 catches, 151 yards)—here are highlights courtesy of our friends at NFL.com for proof.

In that clip, you'll see a couple of interesting things. The first bit in the reel shows Bryant put down one arm to the ground while holding the ball in his other hand in an attempt to avoid his knees or elbow from touching the surface.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

In this instance, Bryant managed to stay on his feet and gain an extra 10 yards or so by successfully completing what can accurately be described as a "football move."

But things get more interesting at the 48-second mark of Bryant's Week 7 highlights. That is where we find our proof that the NFL erred in overturning the Bryant catch with 4:06 remaining vs. the Packers (a call that ESPN says dropped Dallas' win probability from 56 percent down to 15 percent). The controversial pass interference penalty on the Cowboys against Detroit that garnered so much outcry only dropped the Lions' win probability from 79 percent to 69 percent, according to Advanced Football Analytics.

Observe the following: 

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Above, ​Bryant beats CB Prince Amukamara on a perfectly thrown jump ball from Tony Romo with an acrobatic catch.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Bryant gets one foot down.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

​Dez gets his second foot down.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Bryant gets his third foot down.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Bryant puts his opposite hand down in an attempt to keep his body from touching the ground as he reaches for the pylon.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Here is another angle of Bryant with his opposite hand attempting to keep his body up while he extends for a possible touchdown.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

This is a third and final angle of the lunge from a stumbling Bryant where he's clearly down. This is where the refs ended up spotting the ball after the NFL's replay headquarters confirmed the catch but ruled Bryant was short of a TD since his legs clearly touched down before the ball crossed the goal line.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Above, the ball comes loose well after the process of the catch has been completed.

On Oct. 19, a stumbling Bryant got three feet down, used the hand without the ball to try and keep his body from touching the ground, reached for the end zone and had the ball come loose after his dive. The NFL ruled the catch had been confirmed by replay (indisputable video evidence that the call was correct).

Yet on Jan. 11, with the exact same player doing the exact same sequence of events, the NFL officiating headquarters returned the exact opposite indisputable ruling and said Bryant clearly "failed to complete the process of the catch."

Here are screenshots of Bryant's remarkable play against the Packers (via NFL.com)

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Above, Bryant beats CB Sam Shields on a perfectly thrown jump ball from Tony Romo with an acrobatic catch.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Bryant gets one foot down.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Bryant gets his second foot down.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Bryant gets his third foot down.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Bryant starts to kick out and propel for the end zone, putting his right arm out as he prepares his attempt to prevent his knees and elbow from touching the ground.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Bryant completes his propulsion kick towards the goal line and plants his opposite hand on the ground to try and keep his body airborne as he reaches for the pylon.

Courtesy of NFL.com/FOX

Above, the ball comes loose well after the process of the catch has been completed.

The NFL head of officiating, Dean Blandino, said to ProFootballTalk this week that the rules are clear, but how can his NFL replay center render opposite indisputable rulings on those two eerily similar plays a mere 13 weeks apart? Did Bryant not make the exact same "football moves" while falling to the ground in Week 7 that he made in his similarly stumbling dive attempt in Lambeau? 

As many have pointed out, the Cowboys had plenty of other chances to win this game.

DeMarco Murray's lost fumble on what looked to be a touchdown scamper, which would have put Dallas up two scores early in the third quarter, was huge. The Cowboys' botched play-calling and missed field goal before the half, which turned into a six-point swing when they allowed Green Bay to drive down and get three points ahead of intermission, was costly.

The quickly forgotten Randall Cobb fumble on a kick return with 4:16 left in the third quarter that slipped through the hands of multiple Cowboys before Green Bay recovered also looms large. (Dallas was up 21-13 and would have started with the ball inside the Packers' 25-yard-line had it been able to secure the loose ball.)

In a sense, it's wrong to say the Bryant non-catch/catch solely decided the game. Yet at the same time, it could have been the decisive play of the contest that allowed the Cowboys to overcome those past missed opportunities thanks to a superstar's moment of greatness.

Dallas' offense never got the ball back, as the hobbled MVP-to-be got enough first downs vs. the Cowboys' far inferior defense to salt the game away. Bryant put the team on his back the way Packers' great Greg Jennings did in this legendary Madden clip (warning: language NSFW), and the NFL took it away from him. 

Fans were robbed of an all-time playoff game in "Ice Bowl II." Either the Cowboys go on to win and the Bryant catch takes its place in history or the aforementioned one-legged Aaron Rodgers leads his offense down for the winning score to send the Packers to the NFC Championship Game and cement his own "Michael Jordan Flu Game"/"Willis Reed Game 7 of the Finals" moment. 

Instead of an instant classic, we're left with a debacle that everyone mistakenly blamed on a poor rulebook instead of a terrible ruling.

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