Sunday, October 14, 2012
It's time for Dez Bryant to pay off
By Tim MacMahon ESPNDallas.com
BALTIMORE -- After most of the media horde left his locker Sunday afternoon, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant asked for an opinion about the failed two-point conversion that would have tied the score with 36 seconds remaining.
Dez Bryant's drop on a two-point conversion attempt overshadowed a solid performance by the Cowboys' receiver in Baltimore.
Want the truth, Dez?
"Yep," he said, having just told reporters that he believed Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams should have been called for pass interference on the play.
Sorry, Dez, that was a drop. It's a ball No. 88 is expected to catch 99 of 100 times.
"That's fair," Bryant replied, frustrated that his only mistake during a breakout performance loomed so large in the Cowboys' 31-29 loss at M&T Bank Stadium.
Know what else is fair? Expecting Bryant to perform like that on a weekly basis.
"Of course," Bryant said. "That's not only [my expectations], but I know it's everybody else's, too."
It's definitely what the Cowboys expected when they decided to draft Bryant despite all of his baggage. He was past due for this kind of performance.
Bryant is simply too strong, too explosive, too gifted not to be a dominant force all the time. A 95-yard, two-touchdown game ought to be relatively routine for the most talented receiver to ever suit up for a franchise that has three receivers in the Ring of Honor, two in the Hall of Fame and another who has the second-most receiving yards in NFL history.
It's time Bryant forces the discussion about him to focus on his production, not his potential and his problems.
Despite the bitter end, Bryant took a big step in that direction against the Ravens, who had no chance of covering him after star cornerback Lardarius Webb suffered what is probably a season-ending knee injury early in the game.
The receiver ripped for being so unreliable -- especially after his mistake-marred outing in the Monday night loss to the Chicago Bears before the bye -- served as Tony Romo's security blanket against Baltimore.
Romo targeted Bryant 15 times, not including the two-point conversion. Bryant came down with a career-high 13 catches, including two touchdowns on back-shoulder fades, the first of which required a phenomenal catch with Bryant's body parallel to the ground.
As disappointing as the drop was, Bryant was the kind of beast that Jerry Jones envisioned when the Cowboys traded up ahead of the Ravens to draft Bryant in the 2010 first round. If Bryant can have days like this on a consistent basis, it's well worth dealing with all the off-field drama that the Cowboys knew would be part of the package when they picked him.
"I think we can win with that day that we had and win with him as the key receiver," Jones said despite pointing out that poor technique caused Bryant's critical drop. "It was that kind of day."
What took so long?
It's inexcusable for Bryant to wait more than a month to score a touchdown. That's an egregious waste of talent. He knows that.
"You're not here just to be a show-off," Bryant said. "Like Coach [Jason] Garrett always says, he don't want flash players. He wants guys to go out there to make plays."
It wasn't difficult to see the kind of day coming for Bryant. Not if you watched him closely in the Cowboys' last game, when he had a career-high 105 yards but was rightfully ripped for a pick-six-causing mental bust and three drops, one of which would have probably been a 69-yard touchdown.
The Bears couldn't cover Bryant. He torched Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman over and over again, getting wide open 12 of the 13 times Romo threw the ball. (The exception was awful: running the wrong route after misreading the coverage to gift Tillman's touchdown.)
There are good reasons Romo has thrown Bryant the ball 28 times in the past two games. It's because Bryant keeps getting open.
The Cowboys need Bryant to be great to dig out of this 2-3 hole. That's apparent to everyone on the roster, starting with the franchise quarterback. Bryant has to be dominant for the Dallas offense to strike any fear in foes.
Bryant has been the NFL's ultimate tease. It's about time he had his breakout performance.
Too bad it came with a big "but."