- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Frustrating as it may be, Dez Bryant is flattered by the attention.
At least, that's how the rising star receiver felt after the Cowboys' 36-31 win over the New York Giants in Sunday night's season opener.
Bryant's statistics (four catches for 22 yards) don't indicate that he was much of a factor in the Cowboys' victory. You need to look elsewhere in the box score for evidence of his impact, such as tight end Jason Witten's eight catches for 70 yards and two scores and receiver Miles Austin's 10 catches for 72 yards.
The Giants defense was determined not to allow Bryant to blow up, like he did in the second half of the 2012 season, when he caught 50 passes for 879 yards and eight touchdowns in the last eight games. New York doubled-teamed Bryant “the whole game,” quarterback Tony Romo said, with a cornerback playing press coverage and a safety over the top.
“Hey, I got my stats through Witt, through Miles, through Tony and the rest of the other guys,” Bryant told ESPNDallas.com after receiving treatment for a foot injury suffered in the fourth quarter. “[The Giants] respected me tonight. I know what I can do. Everybody across this world knows what I can do. And they know, if the ball is thrown my way, I'm going to get to it. I don't care if it's double [coverage], triple or whatever. I'm going to try my best to get to it.
“But we play smart football here. We want to win, and I think we went the smart route tonight.”
That meant not force-feeding the Cowboys' most explosive playmaker. Bryant was targeted eight times, but Romo only took one deep shot to No. 88, and that pass by the wounded quarterback fell well short for an incompletion.
The Giants' game plan certainly was not a surprise. Bryant knew there was a strong possibility that New York would make him the primary focus of their defensive scheme. It's why head coach Jason Garrett frequently says that Bryant can be an improved player if his statistics aren't as good as last season's.
“Obviously any time 88's on the field, he's going to draw attention,” Witten said. “He's a phenomenal receiver. He's going to have a great year.”
There will also be games like this that test Bryant's patience. That's life as a premier receiver in the NFL.
Bryant would be lying if he said that he wasn't frustrated at points Sunday night, but it's an emotion born out of competitiveness, not selfishness. He said he thought there were some opportunities for him to make plays when Romo didn't target him, but he noted in the same breath that it's impossible for a quarterback to see everything when facing a pass rush.
As long as the Cowboys win, serving as a decoy is cool with Bryant.
“If teams want to continue to keep doing that, we'll continue to keep doing what we're doing,” Bryant said. “I honestly feel like it's respect. You're respecting me, so therefore, it's always good to see somebody else shine.
“When it opens up for me, I'm going to do what I love to do, and that's make plays.”