Brian Jones, a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, is adamant that Dez Bryant’s fourth-quarter, 31-yard reception against the Green Bay Packers – which would have given the Cowboys first-and-goal at the 1 – was a catch.
“That’s why they don’t let you make the calls,” CBS Sports rules expert Mike Carey said on Gio and Jones, laughing, “because you’ve got a biased opinion.”
Indeed, referees ruled that Bryant used the ground to help make the catch. The call was overturned, and Dallas turned the ball over on downs. Green Bay won, 26-21, and will play Seattle in the NFC Championship this Sunday.
What exactly happened on that play? Why was it not a catch?
“So the ball doesn’t come in cleanly,” Carey began. “You’ve got a little bobble, but then he gets control. But during that whole process, he’s on his way down to the ground and the league is very clear – that if you’re going to go to the ground, when you hit the ground, you must maintain complete control unless you do something very obvious – reach for a first down, reach for a goal line. And that’s just not (what happened here).”
So, if Bryant had reached for the goal line, it would have been a catch and the Cowboys would have still had the ball?
“They would still have the ball,” Carey said, “(as long as) he had control while he was reaching out.”
Jones and Gregg Giannotti wondered if the league should reassess its stance on this rule, especially since so many fans across the country thought it was a catch.
“No, I think it’s a good rule and has good criteria that everyone can understand,” he said. “But it’s been an evolution over the past 10 years. But where it is right now, I think it’s in a very nice place. We have very good video evidence of what happened. Now, you may argue one way or the other, but it’s clear when he hit the ground, the ball came loose.”
Carey, who officiated in the NFL for 24 years, reiterated the importance of instant play while also acknowledging it isn’t perfect.
“If there’s any mistake on the field, all officials want to get it right,” he said. “Now, the execution of that – nothing is perfect. You have to accept the mistakes that happen on replay just like you have to accept the mistakes (that happen on the field).”
Carey then explained the process for each replay review.
“The way it’s supposed to go is there’s a little collaboration,” he said. “First of all, on the field, the calling official and the referee get together and they talk about . . . the specifics that happened on that play. So that gives the referee a very good insight of what to look for when he gets into the booth. That’s critical. And then you have the replay official up in the booth who’s at the game site. He’s looking at it from a bird’s eye view and on his screen, and he’s getting to see the replays long before we get over there. So you have three great sources of input, and then when you start to watch this video, you can really interpret it.
“And you have to really remember very consciously,” Carey continued, “that video is two-dimensional and it’s very easy for us as TV watchers to see three-dimensions when there’s really two. So it takes a little bit of skill to have that happen. And now with the injection of (a league official in) New York in it, you get another person in there to collaborate.”
If it sounds like an involved process, that’s because it is. The NFL wants to make sure every call is accurate – which is why Carey doesn’t expect the league to redefine what a catch is or isn’t this offseason.
“I think the league is really good about looking at everything,” Carey said, “but I think they’ll reconfirm their position.”