IRVING, Texas – This could have been Dez Bryant’s breakout game. It should have been.
Bryant got open all night against Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman, whom the Bears had shadow him. Bryant caught eight passes for a career-high 105 yards, but nobody was talking about the plays he made after the Cowboys’ lopsided loss.
The killer mistakes that marred Bryant’s Monday night performance dominated the discussion about No. 88.
A mental bust by Bryant led to a pick-six for Tillman. And Bryant had three drops: one that made the Cowboys punt, one that forced them to settle for a field goal and one that could have been a touchdown pass on a deep ball.
Bryant frequently talks about earning the trust of quarterback Tony Romo by proving that he’s reliable. You reckon this was a leap in the wrong direction for their quarterback-receiver rapport?
“Not at all,” Bryant said. “I don’t think so, because I think Tony believes in me. He knows what kind of guy I am.”
Bryant is a flawed receiver with freakish physical gifts.
The flaws overshadowed the freakish talent in what could have been the first real dominant Dez performance in a Cowboys uniform. Instead, it was the biggest Dez disappointment so far in his NFL career.
The weekly throw-by-throw breakdown:
INCOMPLETION: Lined up wide right on third-and-4 from the Dallas 42 and ran a stop route against press coverage by cornerback Charles Tillman. Romo threw a perfect pass to Bryant’s back shoulder, but Bryant didn’t appear ready for the ball that went through his hands. Tillman got away with a quick grab of Bryant’s facemask just before the ball arrived, as Bryant pointed out to the side judge after the play.
16-YARD GAIN: Lined up split right on first-and-10 from the Dallas 26 and ran a deep crossing route against zone coverage. Made a diving catch in front of safety Chris Conte.
10-YARD GAIN: Lined up wide left on second-and-6 from the Dallas 46 and ran a hitch route against Tillman, who was playing off coverage. Caught the ball at the sticks and gained four yards after the catch.
INCOMPLETION: Lined up in the right slot on third-and-4 from the Chicago 38 and ran a fly route, getting wide open after beating Tillman’s press coverage with an inside move at the line of scrimmage and bending his route away from the safety in Cover 2. Romo overthrew the ball, costing the Cowboys a probable touchdown.
INTERCEPTION: Lined up wide left on third-and-9 from the Dallas 21 and ran a go route, reading the coverage incorrectly and allowing Tillman to make an easy interception that he returned 25 yards for a touchdown. With the Bears blitzing the safety on that side, Romo is relying on Bryant to adjust his route based on the corner’s coverage, running a hitch if the corner plays off or a go if the corner presses. Tillman fooled Bryant by lining up in press and bailing just before the snap. Tillman, knowing Romo had to make a quick throw with the safety unaccounted for by the Cowboys’ protection, just read the quarterback’s eyes and broke on the ball as Bryant ran by him.
11-YARD GAIN: Lined up wide left on second-and-6 from the Dallas 40 during a two-minute drill and ran a shallow crossing route. Caught the ball at the 43 and made Tillman miss, gaining eight yards after the catch.
7-YARD GAIN: Lined up in the right slot on first-and-10 from the Chicago 17 in the final minute of the first half and ran a shallow crossing route against zone coverage. He’s on the opposite side of the field by the time Romo, who scrambled away from pressure, delivered the ball. Bryant caught the ball at the line of scrimmage and turned upfield, getting tackled by three Bears instead of stepping out of bounds to stop the clock.
25-YARD GAIN: Lines up split left and ran a deep crossing route against Cover 2, getting wide open in the middle of the field after Tillman’s bump didn’t disrupt his route. Gained 10 yards after the catch, including five after contact by the safeties.
20-YARD GAIN: Lines up wide left on first-and-10 from the Chicago 36 and ran a flag route against Cover 2. Caught the ball in front of Conte and got both feet down before being shoved out of bounds.
INCOMPLETION: Lined up third-and-6 from the Chicago 22 and ran a slant route against Tillman. Romo’s pass went through Bryant’s hands and hit him in the chest before falling to the ground, killing the drive and forcing the Cowboys to settle for a field goal. Bryant made a nice move to cross over Tillman, but that didn’t matter due to an inexcusable drop.
9-YARD GAIN: Lined up wide right on first-and-10 from the Dallas 15 and ran a quick in cut against a deep Cover 2 look. Caught the ball in front of the linebackers and was tackled immediately.
INCOMPLETION: Lined up wide right on first-and-10 from the Dallas 31 and runs a slant-and-go against man coverage. Bryant gets wide open by torching Tillman, who bites on the double move, but drops a perfect pass from Romo for what might have been a touchdown. Bryant’s explanation: “I felt the sideline and I just wanted to stay in. I just focused a little bit too much on that sideline instead of making a play on the ball.”
7-YARD GAIN: Lined up wide left on second-and-10 from the Dallas 31 and ran a hitch against Tillman’s off coverage. Gained a couple of yards after contact, which came immediately after the catch.
2-POINT CONVERSION: Lined up wide right and ran a slant against Tim Jennings, catching the ball in the end zone.