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Saturday, October 20, 2012
Cowboys need Dez Bryant at Carolina

By Calvin Watkins

IRVING, Texas -- The noise surrounding Dez Bryant and his dropped two-point conversion pass at Baltimore last week and his four overall drops in the 2012 season has to be muted for a moment.

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Drew Pearson diagnoses Dez Bryant's lingering groin injury and conveys the must-win nature of this Sunday's game.

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Over the last two weeks, Bryant has been the Cowboys' best receiver. Yes, the best receiver despite the miscues. But Bryant is questionable for Sunday's game at Carolina after a groin strain forced him to miss Friday's practice at Valley Ranch.

The Cowboys need Bryant for Sunday's game. If Bryant isn't available, the chances of Kevin Ogletree duplicating what he did in the season opener at the New York Giants (eight catches for 114 yards with two touchdowns) are low.

Ogletree has just nine catches since the season opener. Miles Austin is also available to possibly save the day, but he's been inconsistent. And while he does have a 100 yard game (107 on five catches Sept. 23 against Tampa Bay), Austin hasn't dominated any games.

At the start of the season, I said Austin was the Cowboys' best receiver and I still believe that, but over the last two games, Bryant has been the hottest.

Bryant has 21 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns the last two games. The Cowboys can't afford to miss Bryant because he's their most physical and productive receiver.

Quarterback Tony Romo trusts Bryant, not more than Jason Witten or Austin, but he's targeted Bryant 48 times for a 70.8 percent completion rate, making Bryant a go-to receiver.

"He’s getting better and better," Romo said. "I said this a while ago, he just continues to grow each year, each week and each month through the experiences of the game and things of that nature. He continues to become a better receiver, and he’s continuing to work at it really hard and he’s continuing to get better."

Sunday afternoon, if the Cowboys get outside linebacker Anthony Spencer back from a pectoral muscle strain, it will be a boost to the defense. But if Bryant isn't around, things will get a little tricky for the Cowboys offense.