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Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Dez Bryant just can't catch on

By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dez Bryant summoned a reporter to his locker. He was ready to talk. But it also seemed as if he was ready to bare his soul.

Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant, right, had eight catches for a career-high 105 yards against the Bears, but three critical errors stood out in the loss.
He had a bad game. Make that terrible game.

The stat sheet says the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver finished with eight catches for a career-high 105 yards and no touchdowns in the Cowboys' 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night.

He was targeted 13 times. On three of those plays, he failed miserably.

Bryant appeared to run the wrong route late in the second quarter, which resulted in a Tony Romo interception that the Bears returned for a score. In the third quarter, he dropped a catchable ball as he ran a slant on a third-and-6 from the Chicago 22. If Bryant converts the Cowboys extend the drive, but instead Dan Bailey made a 39-yard field goal that put the deficit at 24-10.

On the next possession, Romo found Bryant open down the sidelines, but the ball went through his hands. Some in the crowd of at least 90,000 started to boo.

Four plays later, Bryant was penalized for an illegal shift.

Yeah, one of those nights.

It's these nights that leave you questioning whether Bryant can become an elite receiver. Given his unsettling background while growing up in Lufkin, Texas, the Cowboys gambled and selected him with the 24th pick of the first round back in 2010. Bryant's life away from the field as a professional has been a mess.

Brandon Marshall
The Bears' Brandon Marshall has produced enough that his demons off the field have been overlooked.
It makes you wonder if he's worth all the trouble.

Maybe not, because Bryant isn't close to being an elite receiver.

"Very, very, very, very, very, very average," Bryant said when asked about his Monday night efforts. "Yeah, I felt like, me personally, I could have played better and I feel like each and every week it's going to get better. [I've] just got to keep fighting through adversity. I can make plays and I know my teammates believe in me. Just got to let this one go and get ready for Baltimore."

If you were looking for an elite receiver Monday, the Bears had one in Brandon Marshall, who's had some off-the-field issues himself.

But you hardly talk about them because of what Marshall brings to the game. He was a terror on the field for the Cowboys' secondary. He finished with seven catches for 138 yards and a touchdown catch of 31 yards.

Marshall played like an elite receiver. Bryant did not.

The talent in Bryant is there, but he's not consistent. Just when you think he's on the way, when he makes diving catches across the middle of the field, he drops passes and commits mental errors.

"It's really no excuse," Bryant said about the drops. " I take pride in catching the football and on the second pass I felt the sideline and I felt like I just wanted to stay in and I was too busy focusing in on the sideline and not the ball. And I let it tip my fingers."

On the pass that led to the Romo interception, Bryant said: "Just got to give credit to the DB. We thought he was going to go in something else and he stopped and he played it and he just made a good play on me."

Before the play, Romo motioned to Bryant with his hands to make sure they were on the same page. Bryant nodded. But something happened in the translation. Bryant kept running deep while Romo threw a pass as if the receiver was supposed to stop a few yards into the route.

After the interception, Bryant walked to the sidelines and gestured as if he didn't make a mistake. His receivers coach, Jimmy Robinson, and Romo spoke to him. Romo then left the conversation.

There was nothing left to say, other than the Cowboys are still waiting on their talented wideout to become the next great No. 88.

It's not happening right now.

"I feel like regardless of [what happens] you've got to learn from results," fellow Cowboys receiver Miles Austin said. "Regardless of what they are, everyone has to learn from each game and grow from there."