Jan 11, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) is unable to catch a pass against Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields (37) in the fourth quarter in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
"When a catch is made by a receiver who comes down with both feet on the ground, the “football move” would be: stretching for a first down, diving out-of-bounds or running with the ball."
The video clearly shows three steps with control and a stretch towards the goal line. Notice that Note 1 says it’s not necessary to commit such an act, but Bryant still does. His hand is also under the ball at all times, so the football never actually touches the ground.
As if this interpretation of the rule obviously being botched on the field, wasn’t bad enough, the NFL VP of Officiating, Dean Blandino, made things worse when interviewed on the NFL Network after the game.
Analyst and former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin asks Blandino:
"“The elbow hit the ground before the ball hit the ground, why is he (Bryant) not marked down in the field of the play, per his elbow?”"
"“Because he’s not a runner yet. He has not established possession. A runner who has established possession? Absolutely. The minute his elbow hits. The minute his knee hits. He’s down by contact. Here, he’s still a receiver attempting to catch the pass so it’s treated differently. The moment that elbow hits, the ball hits the ground as well and it pops up so that’s the application of the rule that’s done here. He’s not a runner, he’s a receiver trying to gain possession.”"
Again, Bryant completely secures control of the ball in both hands, takes three steps inbounds and performs an act common to the game. This is the rulebook definition of establishing possession. The right elbow comes down before the left hand with the ball ever makes contact with the ground. It did not hit simultaneously as the ball hits the ground. In fact, the ball never hits the ground, his hand that is holding the point of the ball does.
Bryant should have been ruled down by contact.
Lastly, this was ruled a catch on the field. NFL officials are not supposed to overturn calls on the field unless there is “indisputable visual evidence to overturn a call on the field.” The simple fact that there is a question as to whether Bryant gained possession prior to going to the ground indicates that the play was disputable.