Our five-part series on what went right and what went wrong for the Cowboys concludes with No. 1:
Dez Bryant entered 2012 facing something of a crossroads. He left the season as one of the most dynamic young receivers in the NFL.
Bryant’s season did not start perfectly, with only two touchdown catches in the first eight games and far too many games in which he was invisible. His misread on a hot route led to an interception return for a touchdown by Chicago’s Charles Tillman. He and Tony Romo just never looked to be on the same page.
But over the second half of the season it all changed.
Bryant had a touchdown catch in seven of his last eight games. He finished the year with 92 catches for 1,392 yards and 12 touchdowns. He displayed a toughness by playing with a fractured index finger that required surgery after the season ended.
He was also more dependable on the field. He ran better routes. He knew his assignments. He made the boring plays in addition to the stunning. In his first two seasons he would make the stunning but not the boring plays, acting more like a tease than a foundation player.
The Cowboys hope Bryant has figured it out, but he now enters what has been a troubling time for him in the past: the offseason.
For Bryant to continue to grow, this offseason has to be a quiet one.
If it is, then opponents will fear just how loud he can be on the field for 2013 and beyond.