IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys could have put the game out of reach early, but instead it was the ball that was out of reach.
Tony Romo's connection with Dez Bryant on the intermediate routes was spot on, helping Bryant amass 11 catches for 153 yards and a touchdown, but Romo struggled to hit Bryant in stride on the deep ball.
"I think the worst thing you can do sometimes with Dez is overthrow him," Romo said. "Obviously, you would like to hit him perfectly in stride and go through. Sometimes, he's such a great athlete that he comes down with most of them."
There were at least five deep passes to Bryant, who consistently drew single coverage on the outside, which were either underthrown or overthrown to the receiver on go routes. Typically, it was the former, as Romo explained.
"I look back and I wish I had one or two where I gave it a little bit more," Romo said. "Usually, I make sure if I air it over, it's just slightly less, and he always goes up and gets it. When I look back, I'll push those down the field to have better opportunities."
The deep ball misses happened mostly in the second quarter. With 11:41 remaining, Romo underthrew Bryant in single coverage on a third down pass that Bryant went up for at the Packers' 15-yard line. It hit off safety Morgan Burnett for an incompletion, and the Cowboys were forced to punt.
Later in the quarter on a second down attempt at the Packers' 25-yard line, Bryant did a stutter move down the right sideline then went deep, as the ball sailed out of his grasp while the receiver sprawled out to try to make a reception five yards deep in the end zone. This was the one time the pass led the open receiver too much, and the Cowboys were forced to kick a field goal on the drive.
"There are a couple of plays down the field that we didn't convert on, and we'll go back and watch the tape and see why that happened," said head coach Jason Garrett. "But Tony did make a lot of plays in this game and we threw the ball very well throughout the ballgame. We had some success with the intermediate game and he went through his progressions well. We'll go back and see why we didn't convert those opportunities and learn from it."
With 1:32 remaining in the first half, Bryant briefly faked a slant and ran a go route. He had beat the cornerback so badly and was so open he had time to maneuver his body, come back to the pass which was somewhat short and off to the sideline and haul in a 37-yard gain without a defender in his way. Had the ball hit Bryant in stride, it could have resulted in a quick touchdown. [embedded_ad]
This was the only example on the day where the Cowboys still scored a touchdown on the drive where Bryant and Romo didn't connect cleanly in stride on a deep ball.
"There were a couple of opportunities from my vantage point where he probably didn't get it out there far enough," Garrett said. "We'll go back and look at the tape and see what happened. But I thought he threw the ball very well and gave us a lot of opportunities to score points and win this game."
Continuing to the second half, the Cowboys were on the Packers' 36-yard line when Romo found Bryant in single coverage against Tramon Williams. The coverage was tight down the right sideline on a go route, and though this ball was also slightly underthrown, Bryant could and typically would make the play on this incompletion. The drive eventually resulted in a 50-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.
The last deep ball miss to Bryant might have been the most detrimental. The Cowboys ran play action with 4:17 remaining in the fourth quarter holding onto a five-point lead on a first down pass. Bryant had Sam Shields completely beat on a go route and was sprinting three yards past the cornerback, but the underthrown pass was nearly picked off by Shields and went incomplete.
Had Bryant been hit in stride, it would have been a huge gain and possibly a touchdown. Instead, four plays later Romo threw the first of his two interceptions at the end of the fourth quarter.