IRVING, Texas – Asked a blunt question, Cowboys wide receiver coach Derek Dooley replied with a fairly blunt answer.
Is it unacceptable to target Dez Bryant – the team's leading receiver and one of the league's top touchdown threats – just twice in a game, as the Cowboys did in their Week 10 loss to New Orleans?
"I think it's fair to say it is, and I don't think there's anybody – from Coach Garrett, to Dez, to Tony, to Coach Cal – I mean of course. He's too good a player," Dooley said. "We all can do a better job – all of us, me included – of making sure we give him a little more opportunity."
Bryant didn't haul in his first – and only – catch against the Saints until the dying moments of the third quarter, when he hauled in a 44-yarder off a tip. The Cowboys would score on a pass from Tony Romo to Terrance Williams on the next play, but it only cut the deficit to 18 points.
"We can sit here and say 'Yeah, that happened,' but it shouldn't happen," Dooley said. "I don't think anybody comes away making an excuse for it, it's just one of those games."
It certainly was a rough night for the entire offense, not just Bryant. Romo finished with 128 yards, and the offense ran just 43 plays largely thanks to its now-infamous 0-for-9 performance on third down. The Cowboys' emphasis on the ground game also played a role.
It was a unique game – we came out running the ball, and then all of a sudden we were at halftime," Dooley said. "It happened that quick – it was 20-something plays, and the first 15 we really came out with an emphasis of running the football. It just didn't go the way we had hoped, and sometimes that happens." [embedded_ad]
Dooley said the responsibility for improvement lies on everyone – Bryant included.
"We all can do our part a little bit better. Dez needs to do his part – he's got to play well and he's got to take advantage of his opportunities and create opportunities," he said.
The plan for Bryant's further involvement doesn't get any detailed than that, however. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday that the coaching staff isn't afraid to move Bryant around the field to give him better matchups, which he said they've done various times this season.
It's also hard to argue the fact that Bryant has been targeted 90 times this season – even despite the bad night in New Orleans – which is tied for eighth in the NFL.
More than anything, Dooley said the poor showing simply serves as a wakeup call.
"Sometimes that can be a real positive, because it forces us to say 'Oh, we can't let that happen again,'" he said. "So that's what we'll do."
Following Bryant's outburst in Detroit in Week 8, Dooley was bound to face questions about the receiver's mindset after his lowest catch total of the season. For his part, the first-year receivers coach said he's enjoyed coaching Bryant as much as any player in his career.
"I think where he's grown a lot is being able to maintain the same level of composure no matter what the circumstance. Obviously it was a tough couple of weeks during the whole Detroit thing, all the chatter that was going on before and afterward," Dooley said. "I think that was harder on him than most people realize because he was trying to be genuinely humble about everything and it certainly wasn't portrayed that way."
Dooley said he understood both sides of the controversy surrounding Bryant's sideline antics in Detroit. As has been the case with those inside the Cowboys' locker room, Dooley said the outside perspective doesn't match up with Bryant's qualities as a teammate. He added, however, that Bryant has to be mindful of the public perception.
"There was never a time where I was worried about him," he said. "And so we've got to do a better job of understanding how that can be taken, because I think when everybody explained it after the game, nobody believed us. That's just the way it is."