The positive vibes following the Dallas Cowboys’ season-opening victory didn’t last too long.
Shortly after the game, the Cowboys announced that receiver Dez Bryant fractured a bone in his right foot and will need surgery. Bryant is expected to miss four to six weeks.
Bryant, 26, had missed the off-season program in a contract dispute with the team, and then didn’t play in the preseason because of a hamstring injury.
Bryant exited in the first half Sunday with dehydration but eventually returned. The foot injury knocked him out in the second half.
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“We’ve lost Dez,” owner Jerry Jones said. “He’s got a break in his foot.”
Bryant didn’t speak with reporters following the game, but posted the following on his Twitter account @DezBryant: “I’ll be back soon but how about 9????????#cowboynation”
Said quarterback Tony Romo: “Dez is a tough loss. You can’t replace Dez Bryant. I hurt for him right now because I know how much he loves to play this game. We’ll try to reassess that and figure out where to put guys. As far as other guys stepping up, that’s important. We need guys to do that. No one can replace Dez Bryant, but it’s my job to help that whole situation.”
Bryant finished the game with five catches for 48 yards. He was targeted seven times by quarterback Tony Romo. Now, though, the question becomes how the Cowboys offense will go forward without Bryant for the foreseeable future.
“We just have to go back and take a look at what we did in the offseason,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “We really worked our depth with Dez not being there in the offseason. Terrance stepped up and had some key catches in that situation.
“Street had a lot of playing time in those situations, so he’s a lot more confident in those situations. We’re going to get a little thinner at receiver with Dez being out.”
Bryant wasn’t the only significant injury blow to the Cowboys, either.
Rookie defensive end Randy Gregory left with a right ankle injury, and the initial diagnosis is that it’s a high ankle sprain.
“High ankle, probably,” Jones said.
If that holds true, Gregory could miss significant playing time. That would be another setback for the defense, which already is without cornerback Orlando Scandrick for the season.
Gregory had made his presence felt in the game, too, with a couple of quarterback pressures.
Left guard Ronald Leary also left the game with an injury. He exited with a groin injury, and had to be replaced by veteran Mackenzy Bernadeau. Rookie La’el Collins, who has gotten significant reps at left guard, was inactive for the game.
The running back by committee approach for the Cowboys appeared to work just fine.
The combination of Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar showed that it has the ability to replace departed DeMarco Murray’s production, although the Cowboys were hesitant to give it to them in goal-line situations.
But the Cowboys continued to be a smash-mouth team with the running game. Randle led the rushers with 65 yards on 16 carries, followed by McFadden with six carries for 16 yards.
The Cowboys established the running game enough to open up the passing game for Romo, who ended up throwing more times (45) than he did in any game last season.
But part of that was simply what the game dictated at the time with the Cowboys needing quick scores to overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half.
And the running back depth should improve once Christine Michael becomes more comfortable with the offense. The Cowboys acquired the former Texas A&M player on Sept. 6, but he was inactive for the season opener.
Veteran defensive end Jeremy Mincey made a boneheaded mistake late in the fourth quarter with the Cowboys trailing by a field goal.
The defense, which had played well all night, needed to make a stop and give the offense a chance. That plan was derailed somewhat, though, when Mincey got a personal-foul penalty for knocking Giants rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers’ helmet off after a second-and-3 play from Dallas’ 33.
That penalty, after a 2-yard run by the Giants, gave them a first down at the Dallas 16 with 2:17 left. Six plays later, New York extended its lead to 26-20, leaving Dallas only 1:34 left.
The Cowboys went 5-1 against NFC East foes last year and 4-2 against them in 2013.
It wasn’t easy, but the Cowboys continued their dominance against division opponents on Sunday by beating the Giants.
Winning within the division is essential in the Cowboys’ quest to repeat as division champs.
The Cowboys also improved their all-time record to 8-0 against the Giants in season openers.