ARLINGTON, Texas – Dez Bryant has had another procedure on his fractured right foot, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones confirmed Sunday evening.
Bryant underwent a therapeutic injection early Thursday morning in an effort to help his recovery from a broken fifth metatarsal. Jones said the procedure shouldn't be seen as a setback for the All-Pro receiver, but a possible benefit.
"It has the potential to improve the healing time," Jones said. "But more important, gives him and everyone more confidence and it does do this that when he comes back, at whatever the time is, it will be sounder and I think that was the overriding reason for doing it."
Sunday's 30-6 loss to New England was the Cowboys' fourth game without Bryant, after he suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of their Week 1 win against the Giants.
With Dallas officially entering its bye week, all eyes will be on Bryant's recovery and a possible date for his return. The team's Week 7 return trip against the Giants has long been circled as his potential return date, but Jones was reluctant to speak definitively on that.
"We'll see," he said. "It would be a complete guess, but he's certainly has the time for the bone to heal. He's exceptional and has shown exceptional in his healing."
The Cowboys are in desperate need of some offensive playmakers, as evidenced by their struggles against New England on Sunday. Jones said Bryant's return could come down to pain tolerance, assuming the break has fully healed.
"I feel the procedure and how he's doing gives us a good feeling that if we feel like he can handle the sensitivity of the heal than you feel like you're not being, you aren't being too aggressive in letting him get back out there. That's the big thing," he said.
Dime A Dozen
The Cowboys trotted out a formation few saw coming Sunday when the Patriots took the field.
Given the challenges posed by Rob Gronkowski, it wasn't surprising to see Dallas use extra defensive backs against New England. But this was slightly different. Rather than opt for a traditional dime package – four defensive linemen, a linebacker and six defensive backs – the Cowboys subbed in Rolando McClain and stationed him near the line of scrimmage.
With three defensive linemen, two pass rushers and six defensive backs, it was a package that caught even Bill Belichick by surprise.
"Defensively, they gave us a look that we really hadn't seen them do before," he said. "They played a lot of the game in a dime defense – kind of a 3-2 look with McClain and Lee in the middle."
It worked well, for the most part. The Patriots went a paltry 3-of-10 on third down, and Gronkowski was held to a modest four catches for 67 yards – all of which came after halftime. The Cowboys also sacked Brady five times on the day.
"It was a new look. It took a little while for us to adjust to it, to get a handle on what they were doing," Belichick said. "I thought that our players and coaches did a good job making those adjustments during the game and throughout the game."
Big Takeaway? No Takeaways
The Cowboys have now played five games in 2015, and they've only managed to create a turnover in one of them.
That's right. The three turnovers forced in that 20-10 win against Philadelphia on Sept. 20 are the Cowboys' only takeaways this season, landing them tied for 25th in that category leaguewide.
"That's our No. 1 thing is just taking the ball away, and we weren't able to do that this week," said Barry Church.
There are obviously other elements to consider in the Cowboys' three losses this season, but that lack of turnovers looms large – especially in narrow losses to Atlanta and New Orleans. After all, this is a defense that finished second in the NFL last year with 31 takeaways – an average of almost two per game.
This year, the unit is averaging 0.6 per game, on pace for roughly 10 this year.
The close calls have been agonizing. The Cowboys had a dropped interception and another pick called back by a flag in Week 4. On Sunday, Greg Hardy forced a fumble on one of the defense's five sacks, but it bounced into the arms of a New England lineman.
"Yeah, we had a great rush this game, but we weren't able to take the ball away," Church said. "I think we had a forced fumble, but we weren't able to get it back – shoot, it bounced right over my head.
We've just got to find a way to manufacture turnovers if we want to be the defense that we think we can be."
Jones Guarding Gronk
Rookie Byron Jones has accepted every challenge since arriving as a first-round pick, splitting time between cornerback and safety throughout the offseason. He has embraced his role of covering tight ends in the regular season, and Sunday he met his toughest opponent yet: Patriots Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski.
Aided by an outstanding Cowboys pass rush, Jones and the defense limited the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Gronkowski to one catch for six yards in the first half. He finished with four catches for 67 yards.
"I knew it was going to be tough," Jones said. "The big thing was trying to get him on the ground. That was one thing that was really tough. I was surprised at how hard it was just to get him on the ground. We knew he was going to catch a couple balls, but more importantly just stop the big plays."
The Patriots made halftime adjustments to help get Gronkowski open. He caught two passes for 51 yards on an 80-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter. One was a back-shoulder fade with Jones lined up on the outside.
"It's tough (to defend)," Jones said. "But more so get your eyes back so you can play the ball and try and make it. You may not make a play on the ball, but you may hit his hands or something like that and try to off-balance the receiver."