IRVING, Texas -- For much of this season, the Dallas Cowboys have wasted Dez Bryant's skill set. The offensive staff's misuse of Bryant reached an apex during their embarrassing 49-17 loss to New Orleans two weeks ago, when Romo directed just two passes his way.
If that ever happens again, Jerry Jones should fire playcaller Bill Callahan and fine Jason Garrett and Tony Romo each a game check for conduct detrimental to the team. Seriously.
It's up to the triumvirate of Garrett, Romo and Callahan to ensure Bryant is the epicenter of the offense during the final five regular-season games because he's their most dynamic offensive player, the one dude capable of changing the entire complexion of a game with one play.
So no more excuses about teams using safeties and linebackers to double-cover him. No more chatter about offensive diplomacy and spreading the ball around.
Every elite NFL receiver gets that kind of attention, and most of them still get plenty of balls directed their way.
Bryant is one of the NFL's best receivers, but he ranks ninth in targets (105) -- and that's after getting 16 passes directed his way against the Giants. He's tied for 11th in receptions (61), 16th in yards (835) and tied for eighth with eight touchdowns.
We expected more. Much more. So did Bryant.
Bryant thought he might gain 2,000 yards and score 20 touchdowns in a perfect world. Garrett would balk at that concept, but this is a passing offense with a quality quarterback. There's no good reason why Bryant shouldn't rank among the top five in every significant receiving category.
Blame the coaching staff.
It's up to Callahan and Garrett to use motion and different formations to free Bryant from double coverage and press coverage. It's up to Romo to occasionally throw him the ball even when he's covered because he excels at making contested catches.
And it's up to Bryant to do a better job of quickly beating press coverage, and when the ball comes his way he needs to catch it. He has dropped too many lately.
Bryant showed us in Sunday's 24-21 win over the New York Giants that he's ready to be the undisputed main man on the Cowboys' offense.
He showed us he can fight through the adversity that inevitably occurs during the course of a game and maintain his focus and composure. Bryant had two awful plays against the Giants, but declined to throw a pity party.
Instead, he kept grinding.
In the first quarter, a pass to Bryant bounced off his chest and resulted in an interception. And in the fourth quarter, he fumbled turning what would have been a manageable third down into third and 30.
"I had to keep myself together because those guys were believing in me and I was believing in them," said Bryant, "and I had to keep my composure and go out there and play my game."
Bryant saved his best for winning time.
On third-and-7 from the Cowboys' 23 with 3:56 left, Bryant lined up in the slot next to tight end Jason Witten and made a tough catch on an underthrown back-shoulder fade from Romo for a 19-yard gain.
It was the Cowboys' first third-down conversion of the game. On the next play, he made a nice 5-yard catch in the right flat on a high pass. Two plays later, Bryant lined up wide left and caught a slant for an 8-yard gain and a first down.
See, being an elite receiver in the NFL isn't about making sexy one-handed grabs. It's not about "SportsCenter" moments. It's about making tough catches for first downs that sustain drives, especially in the fourth quarter.
"Dez is an emotional guy and somehow, some way we got him focused back on what the task at hand was," Garrett said. "The best big-time players I've been around play big in the big-time moments, and I think he had three catches on the last drive and he came up big."
That's why Bryant must remain the focal point of the offense. It's the easiest way for the Cowboys to end their three-year playoff drought.