Extra Points: Bryant controversy could spark change

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(SportsNetwork.com) - At the end of the day, the call was right and the rule is wrong, but the only "process" that really mattered on Sunday was the one where Mike Pereira became a bigger story line than Aaron Rodgers or Dez Bryant.

Rodgers was nearly perfect on two late scoring drives and his 316 yards passing on a partially torn left calf helped the Green Bay Packers rally from their first Lambeau Field deficit since Week 2 to top the Dallas Cowboys, 26-21, and reach the NFC title game.

Those facts bury the lead, though, as Bryant hauled in a catch for the ages late in the game on a 4th-and-2 play from the Green Bay 32, climbing over Sam Shields in circus-like fashion to seemingly put the Cowboys at the 1-yard line, inches away from taking the lead.

After review, however, referee Gene Steratore, with help from New York and noted Jerry Jones party bus inhabitant Dean Blandino, ruled that Bryant did not complete the process of the catch, a nod to the so-called "Calvin Johnson Rule" because Bryant did indeed bobble the football after slamming it on the ground while reaching for the end zone.

"Sorry @dallascowboys," the Lions organization wrote on Twitter after the play. "We know the feeling: #CompletingTheProcess."

The irony was strong on all sides because the Cowboys were the recipient of an advantageous non-call on a potential pass interference call last week against the Lions, a development that helped Dallas earn the trip to Lambeau in the first place.

This time, by the letter of NFL law at least, the Zebras got it right.

"Bryant going to the ground. By rule he must hold onto it throughout entire process of contacting the ground," Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, wrote on Twitter. "He didn't so it is incomplete."

Of course Bryant's effort for the ages was a catch in the minds of everyone except those wearing Green and Gold glasses and the NFL, a league hamstrung by over-legislation in which common sense is replaced by five people on the face of the planet who have the ability to explain this nonsense while keeping a straight face.

The rest of us learned at a very young age that what Bryant accomplished on Sunday in Green Bay was one hell of a catch -- one that would make Jerry Rice, Randy Moss or Odell Beckham Jr. proud.

"I by no means cheer for Dallas but I have no idea what or how thts (sic) not called a catch," OBJ tweeted. "Thts (sic) a joke."

Enter Pereira, the former VP of officiating for the league that now makes his living as a rules analyst. FOX was forced to lead its post-game coverage of the contest with Pereira instead of the brilliance of the injured A-Rod or Dez.

And that's a shame as another playoff game is going to be remembered for a good man (Steratore) properly officiating a dumb rule which defies common sense.

I've long argued that the very existence of people like Pereira should highlight the problem. Think about it, are there rules analysts dotting the telecasts of NBA or MLB games?

Of course not because there is no need for them. You might argue so and so made a bad call in a particular game but the rules in those sports are straight forward and don't need tortured explanations from people with a PhD in contradiction.

In football we have Pereira or Mike Carey to tell us that DeMarco Murray can perform the exact same action as a runner and it's Cowboys ball at the one. On the other hand, a receiver like Bryant has to turn from acrobat to running back in one fell swoop before completing the play by holding tightly on the football because the ground can indeed cause a "fumble" for a pass catcher.

A technicality not only ruined a great play, it stained the legacy of a tremendous football game.

To his credit Cowboys coach Jason Garrett took the high road after the game, saying he thought it was a catch but "This game wasn't about officiating we had 60 minutes to win."

Bryant was predictably upset.

"What am I supposed to do? I'm just reaching for the goal line. I don't understand," he said. "I'm begging them: Please, please, please take that rule out."

Dez may get his wish.

A trip to the NFC Championship Game or a permanent position on NFL Films' greatest plays list might be preferable but this controversy could serve as the impetus for change.

After all the only rule worse than this one in the NFL may be the league's self-imposed degree that ignores proactive measures in favor of reactive ones.