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If Dez Bryant Makes Any Of These Three Plays, Dak Prescott's Fortunes Change

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Was Dallas’s game plan too conservative, or poorly executed?

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Many are critical of the Dallas Cowboys gameplan for the New York Giants, and rightly so. They seemed to call very few zone runs, which is a particular specialty both of this line and their newly un-annointed running back, Ezekiel Elliott. They also never really tried to get him involved in the passing game as a receiver. But of particular note was the lack of slant and crossing routes to their star receiver. Dez Bryant definitely should have had more features in the game plan and particularly more looks on things other than "go" routes and fades.

But most are saying that the gameplan was too conservative. There’s also been some ancillary criticism of Dak Prescott’s rather uninspiring 5.0 yards per attempt, 55.6% completion rate, and 69.4 passer rating. People have been quick to say that Prescott was merely dinking and dunking in the tried and true fashion of luminaries from last year such as Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden. This is definitely not the case. As OCC already showed, Prescott actually threw deep on nearly one in four of his passing plays. We should also bear in mind that Prescott spiked the ball twice. Yes, those plays count and other QBs have to deal with the same impact, but when really trying to look at what Prescott did, we should ignore those "attempts". Doing so gives us a different baseline for Dak’s performance:

Dak stats: 5.3 ypa, 58.1% completions, 72.5 passer rating.

Now, while there were many disappointing things about this game, the clear difference in the game was that Sterling Shepard made a play on a contested ball for his quarterback while no Dallas receiver stepped up and bailed out their rookie. I could talk about the plays that Cole Beasley did not make, and they certainly had an impact on the game, but he is not paid to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. He does not wear the number of the playmaker. He does not stand among the lines of defensive backs and talk about how "you can’t cover me" in practice.

Dez Bryant does.

Now I love all of these things about Dez, so please don’t think I am being critical of him here. But he gets paid like he does largely because he’s expected to come up with jump balls and win contested catches. Even conservatively, he is paid to be a guy that comes down with that ball 50% of the time. He was 0 for 3 on Sunday. So what difference would it have made to Dak’s stats had he come up with even one of those three contested throws?

Q2, 12:17 - Dak Prescott pass incomplete deep right intended for Dez Bryant (defended by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie)

Result if caught: 28 yds and a TD

Dak stats: 5.9 ypa, 60.5% completions, 84.9 passer rating.

Q2, 6:16 - Dak Prescott pass incomplete deep left intended for Dez Bryant (defended by Landon Collins)

Result if caught: 24 yds and a TD

Dak stats: 5.8 ypa, 60.5% completions, 84.5 passer rating.

Q4, 5:33 - Dak Prescott pass incomplete deep right intended for Dez Bryant (defended by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie)

Result if caught: 25 yds, 1st and 10 at midfield.

Dak stats: 5.9 ypa, 60.5% completions, 76.9 passer rating.

And, of course, there’s very little question that any one of those catches changes the game entirely.

Now, everyone has an off day. The offensive line, unquestioned strength of this team, definitely did. But if they get even one play from the current wearer of the playmaker mantle, they almost certainly win that game, and the character of the criticism in the wake of the game has a whole different hue.

Sometimes your player has to make the play.