A win heals all. That statement could not be truer for Dallas Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant, who was consistently double covered and bracketed, finished the game with just four catches for 22 yards on eight targets. It was a frustrating start for a player whom just last week was predicted to win the NFL MVP by Hall of Famer Michael lrvin. But it wasn’t that Dez played a bad game Sunday night. It’s just that he Giants seemed to have figured out a way to scheme Dez Bryant out of a game.
The Dallas Cowboys were perfectly content letting the Giants double Bryant and going elsewhere with the ball. They were taking what the defense gave them. That’s wrong. They are letting the defense dictate what the team does on offense. The Cowboys let the Giants take Dez Bryant out of the game with no resistance. With a player like Dez Bryant on the team, he needs to be fed the ball, regardless if he is covered by two players. He is a special player and has demonstrated that recently. Dez Bryant played 74 snaps on Sunday night and received just 8 official targets. Bryant ran a team high 51 pass routes during the game, yet three other Cowboys received more targets (Austin – 11, Murray – 9, Witten – 9) Here is a breakdown of Dez Bryant’s targets during Sunday night’s game. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
The most frustrating thing about Dez Bryant’s game on Sunday night was the team’s decision not to use Bryant in the red-zone, or for that matter, anywhere past the Dallas Cowboys 43 yard line. For a team that struggled all night in the red-zone, to completely ignore Bryant in that area is a complete failure by offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. Bryant, who is one of the premier red-zone wide receivers in the league, should consistently be used on fades and back-shoulder throws. He was grossly misused Sunday night against the Giants. Many times he was the second or third option and often, he was only used as a decoy in the red zone. For a variety of reasons, the team just could not find a way to get the ball into the hands of Bryant.
Below is a play that shows Dez getting open near the end zone, but because he was the second option on this play, he was not targeted due to a breakdown in the offensive line.
We start here on 3rd down and 7 after the Cowboys forced an Eli Manning interception. With a chance to establish a quick, early lead, Romo takes the snap in shotgun with two receivers to his right with Dez Bryant lining up at the top of the screen. Dez gets off the line quickly, running one of his favorite routes, the slant. The two red “X’s” you see on the screen are the Giants safeties who aren’t pictured here. At the snap, Romo checks on the movement of the two safeties.
Romo sees that free safety Antrel Rolle (not pictured) has taken a bad angle on DeMarco Murray out of the backfield. Murray is at the bottom of your screen and is being followed by a linebacker as well. This is Tony Romo’s first option. Dez Bryant (in the yellow circle) beats his defender for inside leverage and now has a clear path to the end zone with a trailing defender. Because Romo looked at Murray first, he has drawn all the safety help out of the middle of the field, opening up a potential throw to Dez Bryant. But in this case he can’t get to his second read because Mackenzy Bernadeau is beaten badly by Justin Tuck. Romo has no choice but to get rid of the ball quickly.
Romo gets hit by Justin Tuck as he releases the ball. DeMarco Murray stopped running his route and the ball falls to the ground for an incompletion. Meanwhile, Dez Bryant is open in the middle of the field for a potential score. It’s just one more missed opportunity in the red zone for the Cowboys.
Bad play design, inopportune offensive line play, and some bad luck attributed to Dez Bryant’s off night on Sunday. But I’ve said it before and I will say it again. The Cowboys need to feed the ball to Dez Bryant if they want to be an elite offense. It is just one game and his final stat line shows that he did finish with eight targets. But Bryant is a special breed and is someone who cannot be ignored, even if he is double covered. While the win was nice for Bryant, I am sure he would like to have had a bigger impact in the win. And as fans, we can’t complain too much about Dez Bryant’s usage as long as the team is winning. Hopefully the team will find better ways to get Dez Bryant the ball against Kansas City Sunday. And with a little better play from the offensive line (especially from the right guard position) we could see a huge day from Bryant like we have grown accustomed to seeing.