IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys need more from their petulant Pro Bowl receiver than a profanity-laced tirade and excuses for his lack of production this week against Philadelphia.
They need catches from Dez Bryant. And yards. And touchdowns. They need him to be everything they thought he was this summer when they signed him to a five-year, $70 million deal.
In his much-anticipated return from a fractured toe on his right foot, Dez Bryant caught two of the six passes directed toward him for 12 yards and made virtually no impact against the Seattle Seahawks.
He did make two plays to break up potential interceptions by Richard Sherman, who gave him little space to operate. Sherman covered him so tightly, Bryant felt compelled to explain his lack of production after the game.
"Let me get something straight real quick," Bryant said after a 13-12 loss to Seattle. "Hey, man, didn't nobody get locked down over here. Let's get real. Let's get real. I understand our situation. I understand that. C'mon, man, look at the tape right. I just had to set the record straight."
So Sherman didn't get the best of you? "That's exactly what I'm saying," Bryant said.
That's the competitor in Bryant, though reality suggests Sherman did get best of him. Now, we can come up with a litany of reasons for why Sherman shut down Bryant.
We can blame it on rust considering Bryant had missed the previous five games and didn't even get in one full practice last week. Don't forget that the world's best athletes play this game, and anyone who's not at his best physically runs the risk of being a non-factor.
Bryant was a full practice participant this week.
We can blame it on quarterback Matt Cassel, who passed for just 97 yards and seemed reluctant to throw the ball downfield after throwing three interceptions the previous week against the New York Giants.
Where the blame for Bryant's paltry numbers gets assigned really doesn't matter. The Cowboys need more from Bryant this week to beat Philadelphia, end this wretched losing streak and regain control of their season. Another week of practice, even though he has been limited again, should help.
"You could probably look at him technically in all aspects and say he needs to get better," coach Jason Garrett said of Bryant. "He hasn't been to training camp, he hasn't played any games and it showed up in his releases and his route-running, and that's not unexpected.
"The NFL is the best of the best, and even the best guys in this league need to prepare. They need the offseason, they need training camp, they need practice leading up to a ball game, and a lot of times you don't have those ideal scenarios for a lot of different reasons, so you function as best you can. No one wants to do well and play well more than Dez Bryant. He just needs more time on task to get himself refined. In his last six games against the Eagles, Bryant has caught 35 passes for 581 yards -- a 16.6 average -- and seven touchdowns. In the Cowboys' 38-27 win last December, he caught six passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns.
Bryant showed what happens when he's not given the proper respect and gets too much single coverage. He's too big, too physical and too strong to hold in those situations.
Philadelphia would be foolish to cover him that way Sunday.
The Cowboys' offense is built on execution -- not trickery. Teams usually know where Bryant is going to line up because the Cowboys don't move him around all that much.
This is a timing-based offense that relies on the rapport of the quarterback and his receivers. It's among the reasons the offense is so hard to stop when Romo runs it, and why it looks so pedestrian when another quarterback, whether it's Cassel or Brandon Weeden, runs it.
The Cowboys move Bryant into the slot here or there, but he usually lines up wide right or left, and that's not going to change. Bryant understands it's probably easier for him to adjust to Cassel than for the quarterback to adjust to him.
"The types of routes he runs and his body language and just familiarize myself with the player as much as I can," Cassel said of Bryant. "It's very important to learn as much about him as I can."
Every little bit helps. The Cowboys can't afford another empty performance from the $70 million man.