DALLAS - It took everything in the tank, but the Dallas Cowboys avoided an 0-2 start on Sunday.
It was far from pretty, and far from ideal, but under the command of Dak Prescott, the Cowboys downed the Redskins 27-23.
In a span of seven days, Dallas made one key adjustment that led them to victory. They got Dez Bryant involved early and often.
Against the Giants, Bryant was a non-factor. He finished the game with a meager one catch for eight yards. He lined up on the outside, and tried to beat New York over the top to no avail. Lackluster play calling and a dearth in creativity resulted in Dallas’ top weapon being extinguished.
That was not the case against the Redskins.
Prescott, Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan made it a priority to not only target Bryant, but move him around the offense. In the first minute of the game, Bryant was thrown to, even though it fell incomplete. The theme carried on throughout the contest.
No. 88 finished with a game-high eight catches for 102 yards and 12 targets. Bryant picked up several critical first downs that kept drives alive. Although he did not record a touchdown, the sheer fact that Bryant was effective in the passing game opened up the offense for young Prescott.
Unlike week one, Dallas maneuvered Bryant all over the field. They lined him up in the slot, on the left, on the right and in stacked formations. The Cowboys sent him in motion, and let Bryant run a plethora of routes.
His most effective – a post over the middle, came in handy on several occasions, as Bryant hauled in catch after catch for a 14.6-yard average on the day.
So when Washington decided to key on Bryant, Prescott & Co. simply adjusted and took what the defense gave them. Cole Beasley caught five passes for 75 yards, and Jason Witten caught three for 51. While Beasley and Witten aren’t guys that can beat you, they are guys who deliver body punches that wear teams down and demoralize defenses.
Want to double cover Bryant on a 3rd and 5? That’s fine, the Cowboys will gladly hit Beasley on a slant. Want to play bump and run coverage on Bryant? That’s okay, too. Future Hall of Famer Witten will be there for 10 yards in the flat.
When Bryant is used properly, he is one the game’s most dangerous weapons not only for his ability to make circus catches, but for his ability to draw coverage away from his teammates. Dallas used Bryant to his full potential against Washington, and the results paid dividends.
Check in with Reece on Twitter @reecewaddell15 for more thoughts on the Cowboys this season.
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