aNewDomain — As all NFL football fans know by now, on Sunday, Jan. 11th, the Dallas Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs in a tight game by the Green Bay Packers. After coming back from eight points down in the second half of the game, riding the second-half resurgence of an injured but undaunted Aaron Rodgers, the Pack won the game 26-21 and ended the Cowboys’ Super Bowl hopes while advancing to the NFC Championship Game in Seattle.
Except, of course, the story of the game wasn’t quite that straightforward.
With 4:42 to play in the game and facing a fourth-and-2 while trailing by five points, Dallas QB Tony Romo launched a 30-yard pass toward the sideline. Wide receiver Dez Bryant, only facing single coverage for one of the few times all game, leaped right over the head of Packers’ cornerback Sam Shields to make an utterly astounding catch, giving the Cowboys a first-and-goal at the Packers’ one yard line.
Except, of course, he didn’t.
Because Packers coach Mike McCarthy threw a red flag, and the subsequent review of the play saw the referees overturn the ruling, deeming it an incomplete pass, giving the ball to Green Bay and effectively giving the Pack the game, too.
Rules Are Rules
Why did McCarthy believe that he even had a shot at getting the call reversed? Because he knows the rules. Bryant, of course, had tried to reach out with the ball to break the plane of the end zone, which would have meant scoring a touchdown. Bryant’s reach came up short, however, but worse his attempt caused the ball to bounce on the ground when he came down.
The rules of the NFL are clear: Although the ground cannot cause a fumble, it can cause an incomplete pass. And although Bryant came down out of the air with full possession of the ball, his reaching motion caused the ball to hit the ground without his hand being underneath it.
No catch. Loss of ball due to failing to convert on fourth down.
Now … what does this all mean?
Well, to non-Cowboys fans across the nation, it means deserved karmic revenge. The Cowboys had, probably (but not definitely), advanced to play the Pack in the first place due to a god-awful refereeing non-call for pass interference (not to mention holding, by the same Dallas defender, on the same play) against the Detroit Lions the previous week. According to ESPN Stats, that one god-awful call reversal by the refs (the back line judge had actually thrown a flag for pass interference) dropped the Lions’ chances of winning the game from 78 percent down to 66 percent.
Clearly that one call didn’t decide the final outcome of the game. But it was highly significant and had non-Cowboys fans in an uproar.
The one call reversal against the Cowboys in the Jan. 11th game, while it was even worse, also didn’t decide the final outcome of that game.
The Cowboys had already blown a lead against a relatively hobbled Aaron Rodgers. Dallas still had to score the touchdown from the one yard line if the call stood. Rodgers would have gotten the ball back with time enough to drive down the field, and whenever he gets that it always means the game’s not over yet.
Video: Should Dez Bryant’s Catch Have Been Overturned?
But the thing of it is, the Dallas faithful are convinced that they were betrayed. Most of the rest of us are convinced that they got what they had coming.
At least one Cowboys fan and blogger, who was outraged and depressed by the call reversal, is honest and objective:
It’s horrible…[W]e’ll never know if the Cowboys could have won, and Dallas fans will be cursing that catch for the rest of their lives. Even regular fans got robbed. Watching the Cowboys collapse against Superhuman Aaron Rodgers on a comeback drive would have been a much more satisfying way to see them lose…
“Is it hypocritical to be pissed off at the NFL’s sloppy officiating after the NFL’s sloppy officiating helped the Cowboys last week? Of course. Last week I was all, ‘Well! That’s football. Sorry everyone’s upset, but the call could have gone either way.’ [Dallas fans’] hypocrisy is ridiculous.”
There you have it. Is it karma? Or a higher being who despises hypocrisy?
A Move Common to the Game
But, there’s something else here, too, something a little more objective.
Even those of us who aren’t Dallas fans agree that the rule that just cost them their drive to the Super Bowl is a repugnantly idiotic rule. We all know that Bryant came down with the ball squarely in control and that he only lost it when he made “a move common to the game,” as the official rules talk of such things, and tried to put the ball past the pylon for a TD. And yet, the officials actually got it right, sort of: Bryant didn’t maintain full possession of the catch when he went to the ground. (They also didn’t believe that his reaching out was sufficient as “a move common to the game”.)
How can the officials get the ruling right while still making a horrendous call? Because they had to interpret a repugnantly idiotic rule.
Those of us who are NFL fans know that the refs are often atrocious. Cowboys fans are right about one thing: bad calls go both ways, and they hurt the game. No one can expect perfection … but can’t we expect professional level competence to be the usual thing…and bad calls to be the exception rather than the norm for nearly every game?
No matter which teams we love or hate, or love to hate, or are loyal to, we all have to be disgusted by official incompetence and official rules that seem as if they were written by the pet monkeys of bureaucrats who have never seen a football game.
First Image: Courtesy of ESPN, screenshot Brant David