It was just 32 years ago, when the Dallas Cowboys suffered “The Catch”. Joe Montana rolled out, pump faked, pumped again with multiple defenders in his face and lofted a rainbow to Dwight Clark who towered for the fingertip catch in the back of the endzone, sending the 49ers to the Super Bowl and the Cowboys home.
The Dallas Cowboys again suffered a playoff exit, this time to the Green Bay Packers, and will forever be known as, “The Call”.
Trailing 26-21 with four minutes and change left in the game, the Cowboys went do-or-die facing a fourth and two at the Green Bay 32.
Tony Romo drops back and heaves a prayer to their playmaker Dez Bryant. Bryant shows off his impressive vertical leap skying for the ball over Packers cornerback Sam Shields. On his way to the ground, Bryant’s momentum brings him close as he reaches the ball toward the goal line. In doing so, the nose of the ball touches the ground just short of the goal line and pops up out of Bryant’s hands and back in his grasp. The sideline ref initially called a catch down at the one inch line.
Suddenly, Lambeau Field had the air knocked out of them. Cheeseheads began thinking, “Well, maybe next year.”Dez Bryant is irate after the call of an incomplete catch.
But then, thanks to the Jumbotron providing high definition replay, Packers coach Mike McCarthy decided to challenge the call, as this would ultimately make or break the game. Either facing first and goal to a would be winning score by the Cowboys, or turnover on downs and have a chance to ice the game.
Referee Gene Steratore reviewed the play and overturned the ruling to an incomplete pass and Lambeau Field erupted.
“After review, it has been determined, that the receiver DID NOT maintain possession of the football…”
Cheeseheads everywhere went nuts while “America’s Team” came up short.
Of course, the Cowboys argued the controversial call. So have a number of NFL Analysts and players. This is proving to be the most debatable call since the “Tuck Rule” made famous by Tom Brady in the “Snow Bowl” against the Oakland Raiders.
But NFL’s Vice President of Officiating offered a much needed explanation.The ball comes loose as Dez Bryant hits the ground.
“By rule, he must hold onto the ball throughout the entire process of contacting the ground.”
By letter of the NFL law, the ground cannot aid in possession. On the playground that’s a catch. Is it a bad rule? Perhaps, but the refs are at least consistent. We’ve all been reminded by the “Calvin Johnson Rule” in which the exact same thing happened to the Detroit Lions receiver in the endzone. The catch and winning touchdown was overturned to an incomplete pass in the final seconds versus the Chicago Bears a few years ago.
Ironically, the Detroit Lions tweeted minutes after the play, “Sorry Dallas Cowboys, we know the feeling.”
Still, and maybe for years to come, people ask did this call decide the game. Did the refs cost the Cowboys a trip to the NFC Championship?
No. It was a deciding factor, but not a game winner. They played valiantly but even Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett admitted they should’ve put the Packers away early. They missed a field goal before halftime leading to the Packers scoring a field goal of their own for a six point swing. Momentum changed from then on.
Aaron Rodgers, hobbled on a torn left calf, somehow willed his team to a playoff win. The call helped, but they still needed to close it out.Davante Adams jukes Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox breaking free for the 46 yard touchdown from Aaron Rodgers.
With A-Rod’s 316 yards and three touchdowns, Eddie Lacy’s much needed 101 rushing yards protecting his quarterback, a stellar defensive performance by Julius Peppers forcing two fumbles, and surprise highlight reel by rookie receiver Davante Adams with seven catches for 117 yards and a score, it was a total team victory.
All three of Rodgers’ touchdowns were to shocking targets as Andrew Quarless, and rookies Adams and Richard Rodgers filled the box score. Of course Pro Bowlers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb made their marks but being able to rely on the younger Packers is huge in the playoffs.
Watching an injured Rodgers hop and limp his way downfield and make amazing throw after throw sometimes on one leg was indicative of an MVP performance.
He was obviously limited to staying in shotgun formation and stuck in the pocket. Throwing on the move is A-Rod’s strength. Still, he was mobile enough and able to strike some lasers.
It looked as if he changed his mind at the last second to throw off one leg a sidearm sling hitting Andrew Quarless for the opening touchdown.Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers holds onto the ball in traffic for the winning touchdown.
The go-ahead score to Richard Rodgers was a thing of beauty. He somehow found a way to roll left, reset his hips, and fire a 13 yard bullet between two defenders.
And the clutch third down conversions to ice the game were MVP quality. Third and three from their own 40 with over two minutes left, Rodgers hit Adams who broke away from a tackle spinning out and escaping for 26 yards. This showed amazing trust. The game is still on the line, risking an incomplete pass stopping the clock and having to give the ball back to Dallas with plenty of time left. Rodgers threw, not to Jordy, but the rookie, Adams again and he delivered.
And then, third and 11 at the two minute warning, Rodgers faced another “win or go home” moment. This time Rodgers threw to Cobb but the ball was tipped and floating in the air, up for grabs. Cobb fought off the coverage and dove for the catch and first down, clinching the first playoff win since their Super Bowl run four years ago.
Next up is a rematch with the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. Week one was an embarrassing 36-16 loss. Again, the Packers are underdogs. Their MVP quarterback is injured. Everyone wants to see a repeat. But there’s just one thing, Green Bay is a different team.