Sports

Dez Bryant went from frustrated to making key plays in Cowboys win

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) pulls in a pass under pressure from Washington Redskins cornerback Will Blackmon (41) during the second half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Monday, Dec. 7, 2015.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) pulls in a pass under pressure from Washington Redskins cornerback Will Blackmon (41) during the second half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. AP

Dez Bryant is going to be Dez Bryant.

Through good and bad, that’s who is he is and that’s who is going to be.

Bryant is crass

Bryant is emotional.

Bryant is honest.

Bryant is real.

He is all these things at different times. Sometimes, it’s all at the same time.

Often times, it’s all in the same game.

(video by Clarence E. Hill Jr.)

The Cowboys understood as much when they signed him to the $70 million contract extension in offseason.

They just didn’t expect ensuing injuries that has limited his effectiveness and impact through the first 11 games of the season.

Consider Bryant back to being Bryant.

And all of him was on full display during and after Monday’s 19-16 victory against the Washington Redskins Monday, helping keeping their playoffs alive and revive their season.

Held without a catch for more than three quarters because of poor throws and poor decisions by quarterback Matt Cassel that had him on the verge of combustion, Bryant came alive when it mattered most.

He had three catches for 62 yards in the 6 minutes of the game, a 42-yard reception on a go route to set up a game-tying field goal and make the score 9-9 with 4 minutes, 25 seconds left.

He then had two catches for 20 yards on the final drive to set up a 54-yard game-winning field goal from Dan Bailey.

"We needed this one. We really did, man," Bryant said. "It was ugly but we got it and that’s the only thing that matters.

"A lot of frustrations at the beginning of the game, but you’ve got to keep yourself in check. You’ve got to keep yourself in check and understand we’ve still got an opportunity. At the end of the day, whenever you look at the bigger picture and stay poised and stay ready, good things happen. That’s what happened to us tonight."

They got the win for a lot of reasons.

But getting Bryant back in involved and making plays again was chief among them.

It had a lot to do with Bryant finally feeling healthy and strong again after being hobbled by injuries most of the season. He missed five games after suffering a fractured foot in the season opener only to be hobbled by ankle and knee injuries in the five games since his return.

That he missed the entire off-season in a contract dispute and the majority of training camp because of a hamstring injury only compounded his injuries that were exacerbated further by the injuries to quarterback Tony Romo and the lack of reps with backup-turned-starter Matt Cassel.

"He is beyond description in his tolerance for pain," owner Jerry Jones said. "I’ve never seen anybody who’s worked through his pain with his foot fracture and later with his knee, and he just goes through pain, so give him that. There’s no doubt that he was not the player that he ended last year as because he didn’t practice through the spring and through the fall and really through the rest of this season. So not practicing has really impacted him.

"What you saw last week was three days of his best practice, he was real impressive in practice, not only effective physically but motivationally and I think it paid off out there tonight."

Bryant agreed that he felt good for the first time all season.

But his success Monday night also had a lot to do with Cassel finally getting on the same page with him late in the game after several bad misfires early.

“Dez is a great competitor, and I have to do a better job of giving him more opportunities," Cassel said. "We haven't played a ton together, but I know Dez is a very talented player, and he's a very competitive person."

That competitive spirit was on full display in the second quarter when Bryant was seemingly wide open for a potential touchdown, but Cassel threw the ball outside and incomplete to receiver Cole Beasley.

The Cowboys had to settle for a field goal, but the television cameras and everyone had their eyes on the volatile Bryant, who ripped his chin strap off in frustration and began yelling at Cassel.

He continued to explode on the sideline and even took off his cleats before being calmed down by his teammates.

"I'm going to be honest; on that one, I was frustrated," Bryant said. "But you've just got to understand, that's the game. Everybody wants to make plays. Everybody wants to be there for the team. It is what it is."

It is what it is and Bryant is who he is.

He acknowledges that he needs to continue to learn and grown in how he handles things at times, especially with the media.

But he doesn’t regret the passion and emotion he plays with even though it might not always come across the right way.

"Let’s not confuse real with animated," Bryant said. "That’s all me. That’s how I feel about the game. I love it. I’m going to always be me. If you love something you are going to do whatever to succeed."

It’s that passion and love that has kept Bryant on the field this season when many people thought he should shut it down because of the injuries and the team’s mounting losses and seemingly no shot at making the playoffs.

"I could’ve easily shut this thing down a long time ago. I could’ve easily shut it down but that’s not me man," Bryant said. "Things creep in. Sometimes people tell you stuff in one ear. I’m me (expletive) that. I’m a competitor. I want to be on the field I want to play football. This is what I love.

"I don’t care what nobody think. I don't care what nobody says. I just want to win. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters."

And now Bryant gets to head back to Green Bay next Sunday and return to the scene the controversial non-catch that helped knocked the Cowboys out of the NFC Divisional playoff last January.

The Bryant catch that wasn’t still sparks outrage among Cowboys fans. It remains an issue with the NFL, who still can’t decide what constitutes a catch, despite legislation in the off-season to clear up the language after the controversial ruling with Bryant.

He is ready for Green Bay, but he wants no part of the catch talk.

A season that has seen the Cowboys losing seven straight and eight of nine has them one game out of first place in the NFC East with four games to go. Bryant and the Cowboys hope to finish strong by continuing the momentum they gained in Washington with a win at Green Bay.

"I can’t wait for Green Bay," Bryant said. "That catch is behind me. It’s behind me. It\’s nothing I can do. Why dwell on it. You can’t dwell on something that you can’t change. I’m gonna go out there and work hard that’s all I can do.

"We've got everything to gain and everything to lose. It's right there. We ain't in first. We have to continue working. We see an opportunity, and we have to grab it."

If they keeping throwing to the volatile, but real Bryant, they just might. 

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