Deep balls to Dez have been duds

IRVING, Texas – The deep ball to Dez Bryant should be the most potent weapon in the Dallas Cowboys’ passing arsenal.

That hasn’t been the case this season.

Tony Romo has targeted Bryant 18 times on passes that traveled at least 25 yards in the air this season. They have connected on only four of those, gaining 198 yards on those completions, none of which resulted in touchdowns.

By comparison, Romo was 10-of-19 for 394 yards and three scores last season on passes to Bryant that traveled 25-plus yards in the air. On such targets, Bryant ranked third among receivers in catches, tied for second in yards and tied for third in touchdowns in 2012.

For much of the season, Romo has been reluctant to throw deep to Bryant because of the frequent double coverage the receiver faces.

But Romo let it fly last week against the Green Bay Packers, who often left Bryant in single coverage because they loaded the box due to running back DeMarco Murray getting rolling on the ground. Romo threw five deep balls to Bryant, who had at least a step on the defensive back each time, but they connected only once for 37 yards on an underthrown, off-target pass Bryant adjusted to catch.

“Tony, put just a little bit more air under it for your boy,” Bryant told Romo after one of the incompletions, audio captured by the NFL Films microphone the receiver wore.

You’ll never hear Bryant offer a public critique of his quarterback, but Romo clearly can’t miss on that many big-play opportunities.

After the loss to Green Bay, Romo explained that he considers overthrowing Bryant to be the worst thing he can do when his No. 1 receiver gets open deep. If Romo underthrows him, Bryant at least has a chance to use his strength, leaping ability and ball skills to come down with a jump ball.

“Those are plays I should make,” Bryant said. “I know it’ll keep coming. It’s all about practicing. That’s what we’ve been doing.”

The Cowboys need to see the fruits of that labor in the last couple weeks of the regular season.