Mac Engel

Dez Bryant’s career-defining play thus far, was overruled

The catch that wasn’t against the Packers may be Dez Bryant’s signature moment in the NFL.
The catch that wasn’t against the Packers may be Dez Bryant’s signature moment in the NFL. AP

It is ironic for an All-Pro wide receiver that Dez Bryant’s signature NFL moment is a catch that did not count.

When people think of Bryant’s “best” moment in his seven-year NFL career, it may be his spectacular touchdown reception in Detroit in 2013, or maybe his mouth, but it’s more likely the “The Catch?” at Lambeau Field.

It was as much of a catch as it was the correct enforcement of a dumb rule that violates the spirit of what it means to control a football in what was a brilliant play.

Dez said he will talk to the media Thursday. Expect candor and entertainment.

We are two years removed from that stupid, but correct, call in the 2014 NFC divisional round, and since that infamous game, absolutely no one has a clue what is a catch.

Jerry Jones is on record saying he doesn’t know. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett told me to ask NFL director of officiating Dean Blandino.

“It’s irrelevant,” defensive back Orlando Scandrick told me.

Here is what we do know: We are two years removed from that play and, at least statistically, Dez has not been the same.

“Dez Bryant is the most overrated receiver in the game,” a longtime NFL scout told me in December.

Not sure I agree with that, but he has a point. Comparing Dez to Dez, he is not the same.

His regression has zero to do with that moment in Green Bay but, considering how his career has evolved, he will never have a better chance to change his image than this Sunday, and this month.

Dez Bryant, your life is calling: Be sure that when you catch it this time, the refs, the league and the replay officials all agree you caught the ball.

With the exception of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and possibly Chiefs QB Alex Smith, no player in these playoffs can do more to enhance his reputation with a good postseason than the Cowboys’ latest version of Eight-Eight.

For a guy whose life is defined by ball, and who wears it all over his sleeves, his arms and his legs and his face, there has to be more for Dez Bryant than a catch that was but wasn’t.

In his career, Dez has six playoff receptions for 86 yards; he has never “Thrown up the X” in the postseason.

Since that infamous January afternoon in 2015, Dez signed a new contract — 5 years, $70 million — and suffered a broken foot last season as well as a knee injury this season.

Since that play, Dez’s numbers do not look like they belong to a guy who is promoted as one of the best receivers in the game, because he has not been. He looks like just a guy.

In 2014, our favorite wide receiver had 88 receptions for 1,320 yards with 16 touchdowns and four 100-yard receiving games.

Between 2015 and 2016 combined, our favorite wide receiver has 81 receptions for 1,197 yards with 11 touchdowns and three 100-yard receiving games.

Granted, Dez has been limited to 22 games because of injury, but absolutely no one is debating whether he is a top receiver right now.

He was not even close to being the top statistical receiver on his own team; that distinction belongs to the team mascot — Cole Beasley, who led the team with 75 receptions.

Don’t bother with the “targeted” argument, either. Dez was targeted 97 times, behind Beasley’s team-best 98.

We are talking about a 28-year-old guy. To quote noted philosopher Garth Brooks, Dez “is too young for numbers this damn old.”

Perhaps he will never be the same after he suffered the broken foot in Week 1 of the 2015 season. He clearly rushed himself back last season and was never the same.

This season, he suffered a hairline fracture in his knee in Week 3 against the Chicago Bears, which forced him to miss the Cowboys’ win against Green Bay. He didn’t return until Oct. 30.

Since his return, he has been good to dominant to invisible. We know more is there because we have seen it, and it was not that long ago.

Dez has never been a “volume receiver” — when he gets the chance, he must make the play.

And when that chance comes Sunday, he not only must catch it, but the league has to agree to it, too.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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