SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Brice Butler was at his locker Wednesday afternoon at The Star when a large media contingent told him the breaking news: MRI results revealed a hairline fracture in Dez Bryant's right knee.
"I'm ready," Butler said.
In Sunday's 24-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers, he proved it.
The Cowboys decided to hold out Bryant in Week 4 and moved Butler into the starting lineup. He delivered five catches for 41 yards and his first touchdown since arriving in a trade with the Oakland Raiders last September: a 4-yard drag route that tied the game 14-14 just before halftime.
"That's a play we've worked on for a couple of weeks and then this week coach called it and he did a good job," quarterback Dak Prescott said. "The defense showed a lot of attention with (Cole) Beasley in the flat and he got open and made a good catch."
Prescott got help from the rest of his receivers in Bryant's absence. Tight end Jason Witten had a game-high seven catches for 47 yards, and Terrance Williams (four catches for 44 yards) caught the first touchdown in the offense's rally from an early 14-0 deficit. Cole Beasley added three catches for 66 yards, including a 47-yard run on a screen pass that helped run out the clock.
"We just had to play ball," Butler said. I was telling Bease all game that they were trying to take him out of the game plan with their defense and how they were playing him. He makes that big play at the end of the game that seals it after I should have sealed it. Everybody was ready to go. We all expected to do that."
After the game, Butler expressed disappointment over two potentially critical mistakes in the fourth quarter: a 15-yard taunting penalty that stalled a drive with the Cowboys leading 21-17, and dropping a potential touchdown that would have given the Cowboys a two-score lead late in the game. Instead, Dan Bailey kicked a field goal to put them ahead seven.
"Me and 33 (49ers cornerback Rashard Robinson) were going at it all game," Butler said of the penalty. "He's a good player. I just let my emotions get the best of myself. I didn't really think they would throw it because I threw the ball in the other direction, but I was looking at him as I threw the ball. After that Dak was cussing me out like, 'What are you doing?' I turned around and saw the penalty and I knew it was me. I can't do that anymore."
But his second-quarter touchdown catch was a momentum play that erased the largest deficit this season to date.
"Felt good," he said. "I finally got one here as a Cowboy. Now that one's out of the way and now we can just keep it going."