IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant has become the most trusted receiver and scorer on the team in recent weeks.
The once-maligned and condemned receiver has compiled 33 catches for 525 yards and seven touchdowns in the last five games. He's been a second-half stud down the stretch, with 26 of those catches, 417 of those yards and all seven touchdowns coming in the second half of those five games.
More important than yardage is the last number in that set of statistics – seven touchdowns in five games. The Cowboys as a team have only reached the end zone 17 times in that span, with four of those touchdowns coming on defense or special teams.
More than half of the Cowboys' offensive scores since playing Philadelphia on the road have come courtesy of Bryant. No player other than quarterback Tony Romo has more than three touchdowns in that span.
"Dez has been outstanding," said head coach Jason Garrett. "He's gotten better and better really each and every day since he's been here. I think he's understanding more and more how to prepare himself to play at a top-level week in and week out."
Bryant has become the go-to scorer when the Cowboys mount their weekly second-half comebacks. It seemed remarkable that Dallas was still in the game Sunday against Cincinnati through three quarters, but when the score was 19-10 entering the fourth, with all the offensive weapons available, nobody thought a comeback was out of reach.
That's the way it is with this team, but the belief that a one or two-score game's still in hand is because of the star receiver on the outside who has recorded at least one second-half touchdown in each of the last five games.
The loss of Bryant would be devastating for this offense down the stretch, not for his nearly 80-yard receiving average per game this season, but because of his nine touchdowns on the year for a team ranking 15th in the league in scoring average.
If it's up to Bryant, as owner Jerry Jones has said, it's unlikely the top receiving threat will sit out with a fractured left index finger. If it's up to the medical staff, as Garrett seemed to think earlier in the week before every test was done on Bryant's finger, then there's not much he can do.
For two and a half seasons, Bryant's inconsistency marred his game. But those blemishes have largely vanished. He's the one guy the Cowboys trust to find the end zone when they need a score in the red zone. A quick pass or fade to Bryant from the 10-yard line is more likely to go for six than any other play dialed up.
The finger injury didn't stop Bryant from finding the end zone in Cincinnati. While he was probably playing off adrenaline, Bryant at 70 or 80 percent still seems more likely to reach the end zone than anyone else the Cowboys put on the field. The offense won't want to see what could happen if he can't go this weekend or for the rest of the year.