The victory over Washington was one where there were crucial contributions from many players for the Dallas Cowboys. With a relatively narrow victory, the team had to have many big plays in big moments. There were several players who delivered, and that certainly includes Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. But they have gotten their share of recognition already this season. Partly to spread the wealth a little, but mostly because he certainly did enough to earn it, this week’s BTB game ball goes to Dez Bryant.
Since getting healthy after his early injury, Bryant has been on a bit of a tear. The Washington game actually saw his production decline a bit from last week, but the Cowboys offensive production was down across the board. And Bryant had some really huge catches, including two that set up touchdowns on the very next play. He finished with 72 yards on five catches (out of seven targets) and would have walked in with a touchdown if Prescott had just seen how open he got on this play.
The matchup between Dez and Josh Norman went beyond just the playing field, but more on that later.
The two biggest receptions for Bryant came in the fourth quarter, when Washington had finally gotten into the offensive shootout they had to have. With their lack of a running attack (they only managed 56 yards in the game) and down by two scores coming out of halftime, they had to rely on Kirk Cousins to get it done with his arm. Dallas came into the game with a badly depleted secondary, and J.J. Wilcox would leave the game due to an injury, further aggravating the issue.
Cousins would amass 449 yards and three touchdowns passing, with all three scores coming in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys had to match them score for score to hold on and win, and Bryant set up both of the Dallas touchdowns. On the first, he caught a 13-yard pass inside the red zone to give the Cowboys a first-and-goal from the six-yard line, and Prescott would run it in himself on the next play. And on Dallas’ next possession, he would catch his longest reception of the game, a 26-yard grab that put the ball on the one-yard line, where Ezekiel Elliott would finish things off with his second touchdown on the day.
His contributions on the field were major, but something he brings to the table more than anyone else are intangibles. He is literally the swagger for the team.
Elliott is bringing a good bit of that as well, but he is still the padawan to the master. Bryant is not just a force playing the game, he gets inside the other team’s heads. And in this game, he apparently was making a real mess of Josh Norman’s skull. They were warned by officials during the game, and had what was described as a “scuffle” after the final whistle.
Norman told reporters the scuffle began because Bryant confronted him. Norman said he was going to congratulate quarterback Dak Prescott and wanted to apologize to defensive back Orlando Scandrick for slapping his hand away during the game on the sideline, but that Bryant intervened.
"I don't do trash, and that was trashy," Norman said. "Whatever he want to do, do it in the game. Don't come for me. Don't do that. That's overboard. That's overkill."
Bryant was quick to fire back afterwards.
"First off, Washington needs to get their money back, with Josh Norman," Bryant said, referring to the $75 million deal Norman signed with Washington.
"I think he's extremely soft. All talk."
There are a lot of people who may not like that kind of stuff, and Bryant has always had a reputation for being, shall we say, outspoken. But there is a time and a place for things, and in this case, some old-fashioned trash talk seems about right. The NFL has tried to leach all the personality out of its players for some time, and that is not necessarily a good thing. Bryant fires up both the fans and his teammates, and he also backs his talk up with his play on the field. No one competes harder. It is not surprising that he is going to speak up if he feels he is being disrespected on the field, and there was certainly evidence Norman was trash talking - and doing so after he had been beaten on plays. And later, Bryant realized he may have let himself get carried away in the heat of the moment.
I just finished watching my interview on espn... I shouldn't have even stooped down to that... we have something special here in Dallas— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) November 25, 2016
Whether you are on board with the verbal exchanges from the game, you cannot deny what Bryant did on the field. His plays were key moments in a contest where the margin for error was not great. And Bryant is probably overdue for one of these game balls. He has just been overshadowed, mostly by those two overachieving rookies. Not that he cares, because the win is what really matters to him.
And that is just another reason he gets this game ball.