Cowboys' Bryant coming into his own late in his third season

Cowboys' Bryant coming into his own late in his third season

Credit: Getty Images

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 02: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys makes a touchdown pass reception against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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by JOE TRAHAN

Bio | Email | Follow: @joetrahan

WFAA Sports

Posted on December 4, 2012 at 3:32 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 4 at 3:51 PM

COMMENTARY

IRVING -- It was third-and-two on a pivotal, fourth-quarter drive.

The Eagles knew what Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett was thinking, so not only did they double-team receiver Dez Bryant, but they also put a defensive back in position to take away Bryant running a slant route. The corner played press coverage with the thought of taking away a quick pop to convert the first down.

Bryant read the coverage, converted his route from a hitch or slant to a go route and quarterback Tony Romo threw a strike for a 35-yard gain and a huge pat on the back from uncle Mo(mentum).

"I understand now," Bryant said, "if you're going to be out there with [Jason] Wit[ten], be out there with Tony [Romo], Miles [Austin], you've got to know what you're doing."

Later in the drive, it was second-and-goal at the six. The Cowboys dialed up a fade route to Bryant. But he and Romo noticed cornerback Dominique Rogers-Cromartie was playing on the goal line, waiting for it.

After a quick nod and throw from Romo, Bryant bulled his way in for the Cowboys first lead, nearly 55 minutes into the action, against an Eagles team that was on the way to losing its eighth-consecutive game.

Garrett said Bryant's first move after catching that ball also showed his improvement.

"I think the biggest thing we talked to Dez about is running north and south when he catches the football," Garrett said. "I think at times - when he gets in trouble, when he tries to take 'em all on at once - and he's dancing. When he puts his foot in the ground and goes [north and south,] he's hard to tackle."

Those were just a couple of examples, but a they were a pair of those five-or-six critical plays in each NFL game that winning football teams make.

The kind of plays Bryant has struggled to make this season, but not lately. Bryant is in the midst of breaking out before our eyes.

In the last four games, he's racked up 475 receiving yards and six touchdowns. With 22 receiving yards against the Bengals, he'll surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. He took the long way around, but in his third year, Bryant has arrived, realizing some of that vast, first-round-pick potential.

It feels light years away from the guy who was fooled badly against Bears cornerback Charles Tilman in week four. Bryant ran the wrong route and Romo's pass was intercepted and walked into the end zone.

But we haven't seen those type of mental mistakes lately.

Instead, he's come up with impact plays for a team that desperately needs them -- especially now that Rob Ryan's defense looks as though it might have issues trying to slow down Kenny Hill and Southlake Carroll.

E-mail jtrahan@wfaa.com

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