EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - We're not even to Thanksgiving yet. It's technically not even the final month of the year. But to me, the season was one the line with about four minutes to play and the Cowboys facing a third-and-7 from their 23.
This was the game, which likely meant the season, considering the ramifications of this win.
And the Cowboys went to their heart and soul to go win the game.
Dez Bryant isn't the Cowboys' best overall player, but he is the most talented. And in my book, he's the guy who energizes this team like no other player.
Not since another No. 88 does a player on this team provide such a spark. This guy doesn't ever need to go through another game with just two targets. In fact, I'm not sure they should conduct another drive without possibly two targets for Dez. He's simply that good and that special.
So with everything on the line, with the crowd against them, the wind against them and certainly the momentum after the Giants had scored 15 straight to tie the game, the Cowboys called upon Dez Bryant.
And he delivered. And then he delivered again. And yet again and nearly again although replay officials didn't see it that way for a fourth opportunity on that drive. Still, Dez Bryant was every bit the superstar receiver the Cowboys need him to be.
No, he didn't have the most complete game. There were some not-so-great moments for Dez – like an open-field fumble that changed a potential first down to a third-and-30. Or his dropped pass over the middle that was intercepted. (My first thought was that it's too bad that interception affects Tony Romo's QB rating, but then again, how many times has Dez made a ridiculous touchdown catch on a pass that wasn't so perfect. So it evens out.)
And just like this game by Dez. He evened it out. He was making some nice catches, but he was also opening up seams for his fellow receivers. Jason Witten had two touchdown catches where Bryant helped create some space.
But when it came time to go with the game, Tony Romo made sure Dez Bryant was the guy.
Facing a crucial third down, the Cowboys really didn't have a receiver open. I credit the Giants for a great coverage play, despite Dez and Beasley running a pick play that was supposed to free up Beasley over the middle. But the Giants reacted perfectly. So at this point, Romo's only choice is to either hold onto the ball and wait for a guy to get really open, or take a chance with a receiver to make a play in single coverage. He went with the latter and made sure it was Dez who got the chance to win the battle. He did with a back-shoulder catch on the sideline for 19 yards and a huge first down. Had the Cowboys not converted that, the Cowboys punt into a stiff wind and the Giants probably take over near midfield with a chance to run the ball and kick a field goal. At that point, the Giants were already over 200 rushing yards and had every ounce of momentum.
However, Eli Manning never touched the ball again. His counterpart, Romo, was a big reason for that. But Dez Bryant was just as big. After the 19-yarder, Dez caught another five-yard catch and then moved the chains on third-and-5 with a clutch 8-yarder over the middle. [embedded_ad]
Later in the drive, it appeared Dez had a big-time catch down to the Giants' 10 but the officials rule the pass incomplete. The Cowboys tried to stall enough, and even called a timeout so the replay officials could challenge the play, since the game was under 2 minutes, but as Jason Garrett said, "(the officials) kept staring back at me." So while that Dez play could've been the game-clincher, the Cowboys had to settle on another grab by Beasley, who darted up the field for a first down. Then again, Dez cleared out the play by streaking down the left sideline.
We all saw what happened next as the Cowboys milked the clock with kneel-downs and kicked the game-winning field goal by Dan Bailey to sneak out of town with a 24-21 win.
Dez Bryant caught nine passes He was targeted 16 times. And he had 102 receiving yards to lead the team.
But even the plays he didn't get the ball thrown his way, he's making an impact with his ability to get open. The attention he receives on each play should make everyone around him better.
Then again there are times when those other options aren't open. And the Cowboys have to rely on their superstar to be a superstar.
Sunday, Dez Bryant wasn't just a star receiver; he was the glue that kept it together. The Cowboys were able to somehow hold this game together just long enough to win it. And with that, this season stays intact as well.