GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — Dez Bryant stood near the sideline with a look of disbelief, hands raised to his head.
The 31-yard catch to the 1 in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter was reversed and that helped knock the Dallas Cowboys out of playoffs.
DeMarco Murray ran for 123 yards on 25 carries and an efficient Tony Romo threw two touchdown passes, but the Cowboys squandered an eight-point lead in the third quarter to fall 26-21 on Sunday to the Green Bay Packers. It was the first loss on the road this season for Dallas after going 8-0 in the regular season.
Bryant finished with three catches for 38 yards.
The 31-yard catch overturned on video replay upset Bryant the most.
"Look, I'll tell you this, I've never seen that a day in my life. I want to know why it wasn't a catch," said an emotional Bryant, his voice sounding as if it was going to crack a couple of times.
On fourth-and-2 from the Packers 32 with 4:42 left and the Packers leading 26-21, Romo threw a deep pass left. Cornerback Sam Shields had solid coverage. The 6-foot-2 Bryant jumped high and came down at the 1.
Coach Mike McCarthy saw otherwise and threw a challenge flag. Fans at Lambeau Field roared as giant video boards showed the replay.
"Some people probably think throwing the red flag is a lot of fun. It's not all it's cut out to be, I can tell you that," McCarthy said. "But that was such an impactful play, you have to challenge that."
Replays showed that Bryant bobbled the ball as he rolled into the end zone, with part of it touching the field. After reviewing the play, officials overturned the call, saying Bryant didn't maintain control all the way to the ground.
The rule states:
"If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete."
Bryant thought otherwise.
"C'mon, man. I'm just saying, I think it was a catch. Obviously, they didn't think it was a catch, (the referees) took it away," Bryant said. "So obviously it was because of them."
Hours after the game, Bryant tweeted: "as I went to the ground I rolled over and I tipped the ball to gain better control. We lost and I accept it but please change that rule."
The call overshadowed other glaring problems for the Cowboys down the stretch — third-down conversions by the Packers in the fourth quarter.
Packers rookie Davante Adams broke free for a 26-yard gain on third-and-3 to the Dallas 34 with 2:24 left. Cornerback Sterling Moore missed a tackle after trying to pull the ball away.
With 1:43 left, Randall Cobb caught a 12-yard pass that was initially tipped on third-and-11 from the 35 for another first down.
"When it gets cold here and this weather gets different, you've got to put your body on people and arm tackles don't work," cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. "Me personally, I don't think we did a great job of tackling. Ultimately, you can't pinpoint one thing."
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was slowed by a left calf injury. But he displayed his trademark accuracy in darting a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Richard Rodgers with 9:10 left to put the Packers up for good.
While almost every Cowboys fan will remember this game for the reversed call, coach Jason Garrett said the loss didn't come down to officiating.
"We had 60 minutes," Garrett said. "That play was big in the game, but there were plenty of other plays in the ballgame an unfortunately we didn't do things necessary to win the ballgame in the end."
Romo finished 15 of 19 for 191 yards. The Packers sacked him four times. Romo also was whipped around to the ground by safety Micah Hyde after throwing away a pass. He gave the Cowboys a brief scare when he got up limping, favoring his left leg.
Romo turned out to be fine and returned to the game.
But the return to his home state — Romo grew up in Burlington in southeastern Wisconsin — didn't go as well as he would have hoped.
"This is really, seriously one of the more disappointing times I've had on a personal basis," owner Jerry Jones said. "It was quite a challenge, it was quite game our team played, we just fell short."