- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Staff Writer
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At some point this offseason, Jason Garrett will lean back in his favorite chair, close his eyes and ponder what might have been.
There were 2,035 plays in the Cowboys’ 2012 season, but some are more memorable than others - and it doesn’t matter whether they went in the Cowboys’ favor or against America’s Team.
What if Dez Bryant's pinkie hadn’t come down out of bounds against the New York Giants in the final minute? Or what if a Washington safety hadn’t knocked the ball out of Bryant’s arms, breaking up an apparent touchdown, in the fourth quarter?
That’s the story of the NFL every year.
A play here or there and the Cowboys would’ve made the playoffs. It’s the reason why Garrett is forever saying every play in every game matters.
“It allows you to argue your point to your players that it’s really really close each and every week in this league,” Garrett said. “The importance of getting all of the details right and making sure you’re on point can make a difference in this ball game and here’s why.
“All these things that happened to us this year where plays went against us. If that play had been different we would’ve won that game. Or, similarly, plays that went for us that helped us win ballgames. There were a number of those too. It’s the nature of the NFL.”
Without further ado, let's continue the countdown:
Dez Bryant's non-catch vs. Giants
Play: Tony Romo incompletion
Situation: Second-and-6 from New York Giants 37
Score: New York Giants, 29-24
Time: :16 left in fourth quarter
Taylor's Take: This was a harbinger of what Bryant was going to do in the second half of the season. Bryant used a double move to run past cornerback Corey Webster and he split safety Justin Tyron, who was later providing help. Bryant made a leaping catch between them, snagging the ball at its apex in the end zone. One problem: Replays showed Bryant's pinkie landed out of bounds when he braced for the fall, negating the catch and apparent game-winning touchdown.
Season Impact: This should have been the season’s defining play. Instead, it was another case of what might’ve been. If the Cowboys had completed their rally from a 23-0 first-half deficit, it would’ve pushed them over .500 and might’ve galvanized the Cowboys to greater heights. Still, it showed us what Bryant was capable of achieving. Three games later against Cleveland, Bryant turned in a 145-yard performance that started his great end-of-the-season run.