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Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Detailing Dez Bryant: Week 1

By Tim MacMahon

Dez Bryant’s development will be one of the more interesting, important storylines for the Cowboys this season, so we will track it on a throw-by-throw basis the Wednesday after each game.

42-YARD GAIN: On second-and-6 from the Dallas 41, Bryant lined up as the second of three receivers split to the right of the formation and got mismatched with inside linebacker David Harris. He got wide open on a slant, catching the ball near the sticks and turning a short throw into a big play. Bryant ran away from strong safety Eric Smith and juked free safety Jim Leonhard in the middle of the field as he sprinted to the left side. He spun off a downfield tackle attempt by cornerback Antonio Cromartie before Smith finally tackled him in the red zone.

3-YARD TOUCHDOWN: On third-and-goal from the New York 3, Bryant lined up wide left and ran a fade route. He made a spectacular, acrobatic catch over Cromartie on a ball that Tony Romo intentionally threw high and behind Bryant. It was a textbook back-shoulder fade for a touchdown, a perfect way to take advantage of Bryant’s strength and leaping ability.

26-YARD GAIN: On third-and-8 from the Dallas 48, he lined up wide right against Darrelle Revis and ran a streak route up the sideline after beating the jam. Romo recognized safety help coming over the top and threw to Bryant’s back shoulder. Bryant made a leaping catch near the sideline, the only play he made against the All-Pro cornerback.

INCOMPLETION: On third-and-10 from the New York 16, Bryant lined up wide right with Cromartie giving him an 8-yard cushion. With the blitz coming, Bryant took a couple of steps and cut inside. Romo’s quick throw sailed high with Cromartie closing on Bryant.

INCOMPLETION: On third-and-7 from the Dallas 47, Bryant lined up wide right against Revis, who blitzed. Bryant responded by running what was probably the sloppiest route run in the NFL all week. He turned toward Romo after two yards and started backpedaling diagonally and toward the first-down marker. Romo’s throw was behind Bryant, but he got his hands on the ball and failed to make the catch with cornerback Donald Strickland closing. Romo gave Bryant instructions immediately after the play.

INCOMPLETION: On third-and-22 from the Dallas 41, he lined up wide left against Revis and limped through a slant/corner route. Bryant, who was bothered by cramps and a bruised quad, never got any separation. Romo tried to force the downfield throw anyway. Bryant batted it down to prevent the pick.

INTERCEPTION: On first-and-10 from the Dallas 41, he lined up wide right and jogged upfield with Revis in trail position and a safety over the top. Bryant said he ran this route as instructed – and Romo backed the statement – but Bryant never made a cut or any play on the ball. It was an ill-advised pass that was easily intercepted by Revis to set up the game-winning field goal.

INCOMPLETION: On first-and-10 from the Dallas 34, Romo threw the ball out of bounds after recovering a shotgun snap that surprised him and bounced off his chest. It was officially recorded as a target for Bryant because he was the closest receiver.