The big, physical Seattle cornerbacks tested Dez Bryant’s toughness.
We’ll give him an elementary school grade: Needs improvement.
Brandon Browner (6-4, 221) and Richard Sherman (6-3, 195) jammed Bryant at the line of scrimmage on the majority of snaps in Sunday’s loss. He didn’t catch a single pass against that type of coverage. He simply didn’t get open, with Tony Romo targeting Bryant only twice after a corner jammed him.
“That’s what good press corners do to you,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You have to keep fighting and keep battling. Typically, what happens is the game feels a little uncomfortable to you when you play a style of defense like that. It’s hard. It’s not like you have free access and you just get into your route and everything is comfortable. Everything’s hard.
“But at the same time if you keep battling, if you win on some of those routes, you have opportunities for bigger plays. You just have to keep fighting, keep competing throughout the ball game. At times he did that, other times he didn’t.”
Bryant didn’t compete nearly often enough. It didn’t just cost the Cowboys opportunities to create big plays against aggressive coverage. Bryant’s poor effort was part of the problem with Romo’s interception. It was a poor pass intended for Jason Witten, but Browner was able to come off of Bryant and make the play because Bryant jogged on a shallow crossing route instead of clearing the area for Witten to work.
A throw-by-throw look at Bryant’s three-catch, 17-yard day:
Incompletion: On first-and-10 from the Cowboys’ 20 on their second possession, Bryant lines up wide left and runs a fade route. Browner blankets Bryant in bump-and-run coverage. Romo’s throw sails out of bounds.
Incompletion: On first-and-10 from the Seahawks’ 24 midway through the first quarter, Bryant lines up wide left and runs a curl in the middle of the field, settling in a soft spot of the zone defense between inside linebacker Bobby Wagner and free safety Earl Thomas. Romo’s perfect pass bounces off Bryant’s hands and to the ground.
Incompletion: On third-and-2 with 9:53 left in the second quarter, Bryant lines up wide right and runs an intermediate crossing route against zone coverage. He reaches up and gets both hands on the ball, but Thomas drives on the route and arrives quickly to deliver a hit and dislodge the ball. It’s a tough catch, but it’s one a good receiver needs to make. Michael Irvin made a living on that kind of catch.
Incompletion: On first-and-10 with 1:39 left in the half, Bryant lines up wide left and runs a stop route against Sherman’s tight press coverage. Romo appeared to expect Bryant to come back to the ball and threw well behind him.
1-yard gain: On second-and-10 from the Cowboys’ 31 on their opening possession of the second half, Bryant lines up wide left and runs a quick stop route against zone coverage. He eludes defensive end Chris Clemons, who dropped into the flat, but couldn’t break the Browner’s tackle. Bryant fumbled while fighting to stay on his feet and was fortunate that right tackle Doug Free recovered the ball in the middle of five Seahawks.
5-yard gain: On third-and-9 from the Cowboys’ 32 the next play, Bryant lines up wide left and runs a hot route, releasing outside and immediately looking for the ball after Browner blitzes. Strong safety Kam Chancellor tackles Bryant immediately after the catch, well short of the sticks.
11-yard gain: On second-and-6 from the Cowboys’ 36 with 2:57 to go in the third quarter, Bryant lines up wide left and runs a comeback route. Browner, who didn’t jam Bryant at the line, cuts his legs out from under him a moment after the ball arrives.