A week ago, the Dallas Cowboys talked about moving on from an official’s call late in their wild-card victory over the Detroit Lions.
This time, they find it harder to get over it since they aren’t moving on.
The Cowboys continued to argue Monday that Dez Bryant caught a 41-yard pass from Tony Romo to the Green Bay 1-yard line. Officials initially ruled it a catch before a replay overturned the fourth-down play with 4:06 remaining.
“This is a tough one, as you well know,” said Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, a member of the league’s competition committee. “The obvious ones like Megatron [Calvin Johnson] and Dez make anything hard, but there are other ones that you say, ‘OK, that’s an easy one. He got two feet, but right as he got his two feet he got his [rear end] knocked off, and the ball went flying, and it was no catch,’ or ‘he went up and caught it and as he hit the ground the ball comes out.’
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“It’s a very difficult one. It never tastes good when you’re on the wrong end of it.”
Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating who, along with referee Gene Steratore, made the ultimate decision Sunday, repeatedly has defended the reversal. The NFL Network addressed Bryant’s contention that the receiver was reaching for the goal line.
“We looked at that aspect of it, and in order for it to be a football move, it’s got to be more obvious than that, reaching the ball out with both hands, extending it for the goal line,” Blandino said on the network. “That is all part of, in our view, all part of his momentum in going to the ground, and he lost the ball when he hit the ground. That, in our view, made it incomplete, and we feel like it’s a consistent application of the rule as it has been written over the last couple of years.”
Jones wasn’t buying it.
“Well to me, that’s where I have a problem,” Jones said of the “more obvious” comment.
Jones expects the Process Rule — or Calvin Johnson Rule — to be discussed by the competition committee again this off-season. The committee has considered altering it many times since the 2010 Lions-Bears season opener when Johnson contended he made a 28-yard, game-winning touchdown catch only to have officials rule it incomplete and then uphold it on replay.
A rule change won’t help the Cowboys this week.
As the Packers prepared for their trip to Seattle for the NFC Championship Game, the Cowboys held a season-ending team meeting. Afterward, players said their goodbyes and began packing up personal belongings in trash bags.
“It hurts,” cornerback Brandon Carr said Monday. “It’s so hard to get into the playoffs. It’s hard to win games, period. You have invested so much throughout the season. It’s always hard to be packing your bags. Now, you’ve got to sit at home and watch the rest of the playoffs play out.”
Besides talk of the Process Rule, the Cowboys also lamented their missed opportunities:
▪ The six-point swing when Dan Bailey missed a field goal, and the Packers took advantage of the field position with a Mason Crosby field goal on the final play of the first half.
▪ DeMarco Murray’s third-quarter fumble that the Packers converted into a field goal.
▪ The defense’s inability to get off the field after Bryant’s catch was overturned as the Packers used up the final 4:06.
“It was a hard loss, knowing what was at stake and knowing what we accomplished throughout the year and how we fought and we worked hard to get to where we were,” said Murray, a free agent this off-season.
“I’m proud of it. I’m proud of this team, proud of this organization. I wouldn’t want to go through it with any group of men than these guys in this locker room. It was a great season for us. Obviously, it’s not what we wanted in the end, but we played hard and we jelled together.”
As hard as it was, the Cowboys tried to move on. They talked of big plans for 2015, even though many familiar faces won’t return to Valley Ranch.
“We’ve shown the world when a team comes together, it’s hard to beat a team that’s a real team,” defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “You add talent with that same type of team mentality, now you’ve got something really, really special to go with it. This was a building block, a great building block, great steppingstone for us, and I think that the future will be bright.”