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Dez Bryant hits his stride

IRVING, Texas -- It's an amazing story, when you think about where Dez Bryant used to be in his life and where he is now.

This past summer, negative perceptions about Bryant lingered after an apparent skirmish at a South Beach nightclub followed up by an arrest for an incident involving his mother.

All who believed Bryant shouldn't be with the Cowboys were standing on top of a hill shouting, "I told you so!"

What now?

Bryant is third in the NFL among non-kickers in scoring (74 points). He's tied for eighth in the NFL with 88 catches. And he's eighth overall in receiving yards (1,311).

According to ESPN Stats & Information, nobody has been as dangerous over the past seven weeks as Bryant. He leads the NFL with 10 touchdown receptions, 294 yards after the catch and is tied for the most receptions of at least 30 yards with eight.

What about that nearly 24-hour bodyguard surveillance Bryant agreed to a few months ago? No problems there, reports adviser David Wells, who has been in constant discussions with Bryant and the Cowboys.

Bryant seems to have matured on and off the field.

The only downer you could see regarding Bryant has been his snub from the NFC Pro Bowl squad.

"To be honest, it's really not a thought," Bryant said after Wednesday's practice. "I will be happy. Who wouldn't be? I'm really more concerned with the Redskins."

Bryant is a work in progress at times. He has his moments, as do most 24-year-olds, but he's consistently productive as a player and person.

After Wednesday's practice, Bryant sounded humble when told about his accomplishments over the past couple of weeks.

"I just feel, I have been on a hot streak," Bryant said. "Not just me, but the team as a whole."

The Cowboys are one victory away from clinching the NFC East title. It's the reason Bryant delayed surgery on a fractured left index finger that would have ended his season -- to give his team a shot at the postseason.

Bryant has delivered with strong games since his suffering the broken finger. In the past two weeks, he has 13 catches for 283 yards and three touchdowns.

"If you think it's going to hurt, it's going to hurt," he said about his injury. "If you don't think about it, it's nothing to worry about."

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo produced six pass plays of at least 20 or more yards the past two weeks, with four of those targeting Bryant.

The chemistry between the two has never been better. Bryant sometimes calls Romo "Big Tony" because of the relationship they've formed on the field. Romo said recently that Bryant is developing into a student of the game and that tells you everything about how far the receiver has come.

After Bryant fractured an ankle in his rookie season of 2010, Miles Austin noted one of the positives was Bryant can study the playbook more while he was absent.

Over time, Bryant's study habits improved and his game was boosted by the chemistry he forged with Romo.

"Just studying and paying attention to coverages," Bryant said. "Me listening to Tony and listening to everything that he's saying. He's right. Everything he had told me has showed up on film and we execute the play or we execute whatever the adjustment is."

Bryant said his confidence level has never been higher heading into the regular-season finale at Washington on Sunday night.

If the Cowboys expect to win, Bryant must get the ball on a consistent basis.

Coach Jason Garrett understands that getting the ball to playmakers is essential to the success of a football team. When Bryant doesn't get the ball in stretches of games, it's noticeable. Garrett doesn't want to relay that feeding the ball to Bryant helps his team, because there are other standout players, such as Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray and Miles Austin.

In the big picture, at least for now, Bryant needs the football. He deserves it.

"It's always room to get better," Bryant said. "I know I'm not all the way there yet. Everyday I feel like I'm getting closer and closer and closer. Not only me, but everybody is going to continue to make strides to get better at what they do."