IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant didn't bother denying it – how could he, given that the entire nation saw his body language?
The Cowboys were facing a 3rd-and-4 from the Redskins' 15-yard line on Monday night against Washington. Bryant broke open on a slant that looked likely to score a touchdown, but he never got the chance. Matt Cassel threw incomplete to Cole Beasley, and the Cowboys settled for a field goal.
The missed opportunity clearly bothered Bryant, and he let his teammates know about it on the way to the sideline.
"I'll be honest about that one. On that one, I was frustrated – I was," he said.
It was undoubtedly a frustrating start – especially for a guy who caught just two passes for 26 yards on Thanksgiving against Carolina. But Bryant rebounded Monday to catch three passes for 62 yards, setting up two big fourth-quarter field goals in the process.
In the postgame locker room, Bryant chalked it up to the breaks of the game.
"You've just got to understand, man – it's the game. It's the game," he said. "Everybody wants to make plays, everybody wants to be there for the team. It is what it is."
To say it's been a frustrating season for the Cowboys' All-Pro receiver would be an understatement. Bryant missed the vast majority of training camp with a hamstring injury, and he broke his foot just three quarters into the season.
After returning to the field, he struggled through three losses and a knee injury while waiting for Tony Romo to return. He played one full game with Romo before the starter re-injured his collarbone, and the struggles continued well into Monday night.
It's not lost on anyone that this week was the first time Bryant has been able to practice fully since the first week of the season. As a result, his stat line of just 26 catches for 342 yards and two touchdowns isn't necessarily surprising.
Despite that, Bryant said he's never planned to do anything but fight through it.
"I could have easily shut this thing down a long time ago – straight up," he said. "I could have easily shut it down. That's not me, man."
There had been suggestions as recently as last week, after the 33-14 loss to Carolina that the Cowboys prematurely end Bryant's season. He had been battling knee and ankle problems on top of the fractured foot, and it seemed like a logical course of action given the team's 3-8 record.
Bryant didn't want to hear it, though.
"I'm a competitor. I want to get out on the field, I want to play football. This is what I love," he said. "I don't care what nobody think, I don't care what nobody say. I just want to win. At the end of the day, that's the only thing that matters."
As a result, the Cowboys are miraculously just one game out of first place in the NFC East, despite being four games under .500. As frustrating a road as it might have been, it undoubtedly gives Bryant and the Cowboys something to play for.
"We still in this thing, man. We've got to keep our head down and keep moving forward," he said. "We've really got to put this game behind us and move forward."