The Cowboys' Dez Bryant appeared to make a spectacular 31-yard catch on fourth down to give Dallas the ball a yard away from the go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes of their 26-21 playoff loss at Green Bay on Sunday.
Replays showed Bryant bobbled the ball as he rolled into the end zone, with part of it touching the field. After reviewing the play, officials overturned the call, saying Bryant didn't maintain control all the way to the ground.
The rule states:
"If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete."
Bryant said there was never a doubt in his mind that he caught the ball.
"I had possession of the ball coming down. That's possession, right? One, two, reach," Bryant said. "Bam, that's possession."
Hours after the game, Bryant tweeted: "as I went to the ground I rolled over and I tipped the ball to gain better control. We lost and I accept it but please change that rule."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he thought Bryant got his feet down, then made a move common to the game.
"Dez reached out to the goal line like he's done so many times," Garrett said. "It's a signature play for him. He maintained possession of it throughout, in my opinion."
Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields said the call was a relief on a play that could have been a touchdown at a critical point.
"These playoff games come down to the inches. A good call on the refs. He went up for the ball and made a good catch," Shields said.
Referee Gene Steratore said a couple camera angles showed the ball hitting the ground, then Bryant losing possession.
"At the time he lands and the ball hits the ground, it comes loose as it hits the ground, which would make that incomplete," Steratore said. "Although he repossesses it, it does contact the ground when he reaches, so the repossession is irrelevant."
Athletes, celebrities and others quickly weighed in on the ruling.
Odell Beckham Jr., the receiver for the rival Giants who made his share of dazzling catches as a rookie, tweeted: "I by no means cheer for Dallas but I have no idea what or how thts not called a catch . Thts a joke."
The Detroit Lions also chimed in. Their star receiver, Calvin Johnson, had a similar catch reversed in 2010, and they also were stung last week in the wild-card round against the Cowboys when the officials picked up a flag that would have given them a critical fourth-quarter first down.
They tweeted: "Sorry @dallascowboys. We know the feeling," with a link to the Megatron play and the hashtag "CompletingTheProcess."
The NFL has used the Johnson play in explaining the rule to coaches and players.
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