Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

December 3, 2012

Wills: Cowboys' Bryant becoming a force

Receiver keys 38-33 win over Eagles

By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun

Arlington —

The Cowboys are 6-6 and a Giants' loss to Washington on Monday night would leave them just a game out of the NFC East lead.


They are healthy on offense again, from all appearances, with DeMarco Murray returning for the first time in seven games from a sprained foot to rush for 83 yards and a touchdown. They have a little bit of momentum after Dallas 38, Philadelphia Eagles 33.


The Cowboys fell behind by double digits again in the first half – for the fifth straight game – and won for the third time during that stretch. They overcame their head coach calling timeout with 45 seconds left in the first half with the ball on the Philadelphia inch line. Murray scored to make it 14-10, but the unneeded timeout allowed the Eagles to drive down for a field goal to take a 17-10 halftime lead.


But let's not kid ourselves – the Cowboys don't look like or play like a playoff team, except for the second half of just about every game.


The offensive line is a disaster, Rob Ryan's defense caves in at times and there's the Romo question. Can he win a Super Bowl? Don't ask the Subway man what he thinks. I'm sure he's stewing over Romo breaking his hero Troy Aikman's club record for touchdown passes Sunday night.


Romo and the Super Bowl? It probably won't happen this year.


Seattle won a big game Sunday in the NFC wild card race, winning at Chicago. The Cowboys still are behind the Giants in the division, and have a trip left to Washington, where Robert Griffin III and the Redskins seem on the verge of winning the rest of their games. Not to mention games against the Bengals, Saints and Steelers, all losable games for this Cowboys team.


So Cowboy fans, used to this sinking feeling 12 games into the season – Dallas has won a single playoff game since 1996 – are forced to find silver linings.


I give you mercurial wide receiver Dez Bryant.


In a year that didn't start out well for Bryant, with the episode with his mother, No. 88 has become a man on the football field.


He's putting up big time numbers every week now, playing like an 88. Bryant went for six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. He has 475 yards and six touchdowns in the last four games. Those are close to Megatron numbers – Calvin Johnson – or the Bears' Brandon Marshall, probably the two best receivers going right now.


Bryant is making spectacular catches like his third-down reception along the Cowboys' sideline with 8:22 left in the fourth quarter, setting up the go-ahead touchdown to make it 31-27. Bryant scored on a 6-yard reception to end the drive, bulling over Eagles' defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at the 3-yard line.


He can't be stopped in the open field. Defensive backs can't tackle him. They don't want any part of him – the Eagles showed that on Bryant's 23-yard TD catch in the first half when he caught a short pass and ran through a flailing Philly defense.


Bryant is brilliant, there's no questioning that, but can he make this last? Can he be a Drew Pearson or a Michael Irvin?


Romo is showing confidence in Bryant. He made that known on the third-and-two play, when Romo took a chance on hitting Bryant on a deep ball even though an Eagles defender was running right with him.


“When you throw the ball down the field like that on a third-and-short, it's usually because coverage dictates the other ones are a lower percentage,” Romo said. “It can be a high percentage down-the-field throw if you have a good receiver, a good matchup and a guy that can deliver the ball.”


Romo can throw it down field, and Bryant more and more is making plays.


Bryant is talking a good game. He's not letting it go to his head. He had the right answer after Sunday's game when he was asked if he deserves to be in the discussion as one of the best receivers in the NFL.


“Come back and ask me at the end of the season,” Bryant told reporters after the game.


The Cowboys desperately need him to be. This team is dying for another superstar to go with Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee (who's hurt) and Romo, if you want to make that argument.


Cowboy fans need something to believe in with their faith wavering in Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones.


Maybe Bryant is that guy.