Dez Bryant made no excuses for dropping a pass on a critical third down in the fourth quarter, or for not giving better effort on what became the Dallas Cowboys’ final offensive play that turned into an interception.
Bryant, days after making a scene in the locker room ripping reporters for being critical of him and his teammates in the midst of what had been a six-game losing streak, had a cordial postgame news conference for about 6 minutes after the Cowboys’ 10-6, likely playoff-crushing loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday.
“I’ll say this — I know everybody is going to be against us,” Bryant said of what is now a seven-game losing skid. “But that’s OK because we’re going to stick together in this locker room and just keep fighting.”
Bryant shouldered some of the blame for the offensive ineptness against a Bucs defense that had given up the fourth-most points in the NFL going into the game.
No question. Regardless of anything, I am supposed to have had that. I feel I adjusted well to it real quickly, but I didn’t execute the way I needed to.
Dez Bryant on his critical fourth-quarter drop
The Cowboys were clinging to a 6-3 lead with 4:13 left in the game when they faced a third-and-1 from the Tampa 18. From a shotgun formation, quarterback Matt Cassel went Bryant’s way with a short pass on the left side that Bryant could have caught for the first down.
But Bryant couldn’t hold on to it, dropping a catch he admittedly should have made.
“No question. Regardless of anything, I am supposed to have had that,” said Bryant, who finished with five catches for 45 yards. “I feel I adjusted well to it real quickly, but I didn’t execute the way I needed to.”
It gave the Bucs new life and they capitalized with a 56-yard scoring drive to take a 10-6 lead.
But Bryant had an opportunity to redeem himself at the end of the game. With 28 seconds left, he found himself in a one-on-one situation in the end zone with Bucs safety Bradley McDougald.
Cassel liked the matchup and went to Bryant, but McDougald came down with a game-sealing interception. Bryant didn’t make much of an effort because he thought he’d drawn a pass interference call on McDougald.
Everybody in the locker room knows what we do. We know how we roll. It’s never what y’all think.
There was no call and the Cowboys’ chances ended.
“I thought I was going to get it [the pass interference call],” Bryant said. “It’s unfortunate. Me as a player and the attitude I have, I was so caught up in that little quick moment, of I know the ref seen it and know he’s going to call it … but he didn’t. I’m not trying to make excuses, but it just kinda threw me off my target. I wasn’t focused on it.
“Just an unfortunate situation.”
Added Cassel, “That’s what the play was designed for to get Dez one-on-one with the safety. I was able to buy a little time when he was running one-on-one. I like that matchup.”
The loss capped an eventful week for Bryant and the Cowboys.
Bryant made national headlines with his locker room tirade on Thursday when he got into multiple arguments with reporters, and called the media “dirty” nine times. Most of the tirade was caught on tape, and didn’t paint Bryant or the Cowboys in the best light.
That incident came a day after defensive end Greg Hardy updated to his Twitter bio to claim his innocence in a May 2014 domestic violence incident that he served a four-game suspension for to start this season.
Bryant, though, said the off-field incidents have had no ill effect on him or the team.
“Not at all. I think it’s more of a problem whenever a lot of you guys [the media] make it an issue,” Bryant said. “Everybody in the locker room knows what we do. We know how we roll. It’s never what y’all think. If you ask the other guys, you’ll probably get the same answers.”