Was Dez Bryant's Incompletion Bigger Than Last Week's Pass Interference No-Call?
You've probably already heard a lot of different takes surrounding Dez Bryant's big play (I can't call it a catch, because apparently it wasn't one) on 4th-and-2 with a little less than five minutes to go against Green Bay yesterday. Some of the takes were angry, others were fairly level-headed, while some were mathematically false (and hilariously misspelled).
If you recall, last week we looked at a similar situation with the Cowboys. The Lions had the ball with the lead, tossed it to Brandon Pettigrew on third down, and what appeared to be defensive pass interference was never called (well, it was, but the referees picked up the flag). Had defensive pass interference been called, the Lions would have had a 79.1 percent chance to win the game, per our win probability models. Because it became fourth down and the Lions ended up punting the ball (a horrible punt, for the record), when the Cowboys started their next drive, the Lions had a 50 percent chance of winning. The difference here is 29.1 percent in win probability.
In yesterday's contest, Dez Bryant appeared to catch a pass from Tony Romo, leaving the Cowboys close to the goal line with a little over four minutes to go in the game, down five. After reviewing the play, the refs deemed Bryant's catch an incomplete pass, as he didn't control the ball when he hit the ground. The Packers got the ball, converted two big third downs, and won the game.
"The Cowboys would have won if not for the refs," says the caller on Dallas sports radio this morning.
Well, that's not really true.
If Dez makes that catch, the Cowboys are by no means a lock to win yesterday's game. According to numberFire Chief Analyst, Keith Goldner, a completion on that play would have given the Cowboys 56 percent odds to win -- barely above an even split. This is pretty easy to comprehend, as Aaron Rodgers would have still had time on the clock to take the Packers down the field and kick what would be a potential game-winning or game-tying field goal.
Even considering the reversal, the Cowboys still had a 19 percent chance to win the game when Green Bay took over on downs.
But, yes, this play was big. In fact, the win probability shift of 37 percent was larger than the 29 percent one we saw with the pass interference no-call from last week.
The problem here, though, is that one play doesn't -- and never will -- be the reason a team loses a game, and this is important for all fans to remember. On the next drive, Dallas allowed two huge third-down conversions, including a 26-yard catch-and-run by Davante Adams. Let's not pretend like the Cowboys defense played well down the stretch in the game.
It was a tough blow for the Cowboys and their fans. Whether or not it was the correct call, we can at least agree that it was a difficult call. Let's just not assume the Cowboys would have automatically won the game if the refs kept the call made on the field.