FRISCO, Texas >> Dez Bryant still gets stopped all the time by people who are sure the officials blew the replay on the Dallas receiver’s famous catch that wasn’t in a playoff loss at Green Bay two years ago.
And the 2014 All-Pro figures if the Cowboys go on to win the Super Bowl as the top seed in the NFC, that play will be what fans want to talk to him about. Even if he wins another Super Bowl next year. And so on.
“Even if we were to win four or five Super Bowls, people still going to be like, ‘He still caught it,’” Bryant said Thursday. “That’s what it’s going to be.”
The Cowboys (13-3) get a divisional-round rematch with the Packers on Sunday, this time at home. And while Bryant knew from the moment Green Bay (11-6) beat the New York Giants last weekend in the wild-card round that the disputed play would dominate the conversation, he’s playing the part that coach Jason Garrett would prefer.
“I don’t even care,” Bryant said when asked if that moment was his first thought after the Packers won. “That was 2014. There’s no extra motivation, there’s no nothing. If there’s any motivation it’s just to prepare better than the last time.”
The most notable change for the Cowboys since then is at quarterback, with rookie Dak Prescott winning 11 straight games in the regular season to take Tony Romo’s job once Dallas’ 10-year starter was ready to return from a preseason back injury.
Back then, Romo gambled on fourth-and-2 from the Green Bay 32 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining. Bryant made a leaping grab over Sam Shields around the 2 and lunged for the end zone. What happened with the ball will be debated forever, some saying Bryant had control throughout the catch, others saying the ground jarred it loose briefly.
Referee Gene Steratore had the only opinion that mattered, and he ruled upon review after the play was called a reception that Bryant didn’t control the ball all the way through the catch. Two years later, people are still dissecting the replay. Garrett isn’t among them.
“There’s a guy named Dean Blandino up in New York,” Garrett said, referring to the NFL’s head of officials. “He’s a great guy to ask. He’s a great conversationalist and he’s very informed in these situations. If you get a chance, reach out to him.”
The Cowboys trailed 26-21 when they turned it over on downs after the reversal, and Aaron Rodgers led a clock-killing drive that covered the final four minutes. The Green Bay quarterback took three knees to end the game, offering another reason that the catch didn’t cost the Cowboys the victory.
“There’s a lot of emotion that goes into that play and that moment,” said tight end Jason Witten, the first to greet Bryant in the end zone when the Cowboys thought they had a first down inside the Green Bay 1.
“What a play by him. What’s a catch, what’s not a catch. I just don’t think any one moment like that can define any of us. Certainly we all reflect on it and look back on it. It probably hardened us some. Know what? Nobody cares. We’re two years later. But it’s a great example of just the margin at this point and this time of the season.”
Witten remembers the following offseason being filled with “catch, no catch” talk, even among the kindergarten friends of his younger son.
“And I’m thinking to myself, you know, these guys are watching a little too much football to already have an understanding of that,” he said.
Prescott was a junior at Mississippi State then, so he understandably dismissed it as “irrelevant” this week. Of course, he had a hand in that by replacing the one who threw the pass with the best rookie season in franchise history.
After about five questions, Bryant had his fill as well.
“Hey, man, we’re not going to talk about the catch,” he said. “Yeah, of course it was tough. It was heartbreaking. It ended our season.”
And that will always be part of the debate as well.