According to the rules, this isn't a catch. (USATSI)
According to the rules, this isn't a catch. (USATSI)

With less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter of Sunday's divisional matchup between the Cowboys and the Packers, and with Green Bay clinging to a 26-20 lead, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo found wide receiver Dez Bryant for the biggest fourth-down conversion of the season.

Except that the Packers challenged whether Bryant held onto the ball long enough for it to qualify as a catch. After review, referee Gene Steratore overturned the call on the field.

Incompletion, Packers ball, social-media meltdown ensues.

First things first: According to the rules, Steratore made the right call, just like he did several years ago when he overturned what looked to be a plain-as-day touchdown reception by Lions wideout Calvin Johnson. He explained the Bryant no-catch on Sunday.

"Although the receiver is possessing the football, he must maintain possession of that football throughout the entire process of the catch," Steratore said after the game, via the Dallas Morning News. "In our judgement he maintained possession but continued to fall and never had another act common to the game."

Ah yes, the elusive "football move." Of course, we're of the opinion that Bryant stretching for the end zone after making the catch qualifies as a football move. Incidentally, Bryant feels the same way.

"C'mon man, I think it was a catch," he told reporters. "They took it away. ... I wasn't off balance. I was trying to stretch for it and get in the end zone."

We talked about all this in the Eye on Football Podcast segment below (subscribe here!):

Steratore continued: "We deemed that by our judgement to be the full process of the catch, and at the time he lands and the ball hits the ground, it comes loose as it hits the ground, which would make that incomplete; although he re-possesses it, it does contact the ground when he reaches so the repossession is irrelevant because it was ruled an incomplete pass when we had the ball hit the ground."

Bryant was understandably upset that his catch was ruled an incompletion. (USATSI)
Bryant was understandably upset that his catch was ruled an incompletion. (USATSI)

And Bryant stretching for the goal line, shouldn't that count as a "football move"?

"When you're still going through the process of the catch, elbows or knees are irrelevant, he must complete that entire process with the football, maintain possession throughout," Steratore said.

So, yeah, this development makes New Jersey Governor Chris Christie very, very sad.

But Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn't mince words; he said the call had no bearing on the outcome.

"I thought Tony made a great throw, Dez made a great catch on the ball," Garrett said. "Obviously it was ruled a catch at the outset. It looked like to me he had three feet down. What they describe to us all the time is 'a move common to the game,' and Dez reached out for the goal line like he's done so many times. It's a signature play for him. He maintained possession of it throughout, in my opinion.

"But let me make it really clear: This game wasn't about the officiating. 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 that job done. That play was big in the game, but there were other plays in the game and unfortunately we didn't do the things necessary to win the ballgame."