As I've already written, my first impression when I watched the Dallas Cowboys' loss to the Seahawks on Sunday was that Seattle beat them by challenging them physically and winning all over the field. Specifically, though, this worked with the big Seahawks defensive backs against the Cowboys' wide receivers. Even more specifically, Tim MacMahon has a look at the way those defensive backs handled Dez Bryant all day by jamming him at the line of scrimmage:
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."
The good news for Bryant and the Cowboys is that very few teams, if any, have cornerbacks big and physical enough to play that style of coverage against Bryant. The bad news is that, having seen it on film, other teams may be more inclined to challenge Bryant at the line of scrimmage even if they normally wouldn't play that way, figuring it's the best way to get him off his game. Bryant has the physical tools to make defensive backs look very bad if he can get off the line against them, but if all you need to do is wrestle with him at little bit at the snap in order to get him into a game-long funk, it may be worth a shot.
This is part of Bryant's development, of course, in his third year as an NFL wide receiver. But that third year is generally a big one for a receiver's development, and the Cowboys need Bryant to be able to win his matchups consistently, even if he's seeing a variety of different coverages. As with everything else, the extent to which Bryant learns from Sunday's bad experience will determine whether it was a valuable educational tool or a sign of more trouble to come down the road.