Upon Further Review: Dez Bryant’s Non-Catch Reflects Downside of Instant Replay

First off, it wasn't a catch.

Not at least, according to the rule. And NFL officials have called it consistently for the past five years.

Yet Dallas Cowboys fans cried bloody murder after the Green Bay Packers beat the Cowboys, 26-21, on Sunday.

It’s kind of funny because it wasn't long ago that many of these same fans were crying, begging for full-blown instant replay.

Many fans claimed NFL referees were killing them, missing calls and costing their teams games.

NFL owners agreed. The move to replay was supposed to take the human element out of it. The video proof was supposed to avoid controversy, make everything perfect in pro football.


The Packers, not the Cowboys, are going to the NFC championship and will take on the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday with a chance to advance to the Super Bowl.

For a minute, it looked as if the Pack weren't going to get there. The controversy stems from a play in the fourth quarter, involving Dallas star receiver Dez Bryant.

On a 4th and 2 play at the Packers' 32-yard-line, Cowboys QB Tony Romo looked as if he delivered on what was going to setup the potential game-winning TD.

Bryant leaped over the defender and grabbed a 31-yard pass. As he was going to the ground and trying to reach for the goal line, the ball touch the ground as he landed.

Initially, it was ruled a catch down at the one-yard line. It was supposed to be first and goal for the Cowboys.

Packers' coach Mike McCarty, though, threw the challenge flag.

After review, the call was reversed.

Sure, it looked like a catch with the naked eye. No doubt.

But if you're honest – and not a Cowboys' fan – the reversed call was correct.

This isn't new. It happened five years ago in Chicago. Calvin Johnson had a game-winning touchdown taken away for not "completing the process."

Plain and simple: the ball can't come loose when you land on the ground. You must secure the ball.

Just like Johnson on that play in 2010, Bryant didn't secure it as well.

You can't blame the refs. You would have to blame the rules committee that wrote the language of the rule.

NFL head of officials Dean Blandino explained it simply on Twitter.

To his credit, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn't blame the officials for his team's divisional loss, even though he thought Bryant made the catch.

"The game wasn't about officiating," Garrett told the media. "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 the job done."

Bryant, of course, was shocked when his fantastic moment was taken away, reversed. "C'mon man. I think that was a catch," Bryant said. "They took it away."

It sounds good – and in the heat of the moment – it plays to the masses.

Fans and other players around the league all chimed in. Most were in disbelief, many with anger and frustration.

We get it. Most want players to decide games, not refs, especially at the end of a game.

But they are there to make calls – in the first minute or the last minute.

And the silly notion that by having replay you would eliminate the human element, human error – if you will – and be spared controversy was never real.

First, humans were still going to be looking at the replays. So there was a chance that even a review of a play could still be missed or called incorrectly.

Let's face it. Humans make mistakes. That's why they put erasers on pencils.

In this case, there was no mistake by the officials who reversed the call. They were correct by rule.

It just ironic that the Cowboys got the benefit of a call reversal in their win over the Detroit Lions the week before to advance and then have fate do an abrupt 180.

The bottom line is that replay is here to stay and fans now have to just live with it. After all, it's what you wanted.

Rob Parker is a columnist for The Shadow League. He is also an analyst for Fox Sports 1 in Los Angeles. He co-hosts The Odd Couple on Fox Sports Radio and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California.