Cowboys Film Room: Don’t panic about Dez Bryant

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On Sunday, Bryant was matched up against one of the best cornerback duos in the league in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. On the surface, the numbers seem bad, but after reviewing the film, the problem wasn’t that Bryant wasn’t getting open or that he struggled to catch the ball.  The problem had more to do with Prescott being pressured so often and his accuracy failing him. Here is a chart of every single one of Prescott’s targets directed at Dez Bryant:

Of the 18 passes that were thrown Bryant’s way (two of which resulted in penalties), seven were caught and another seven were “uncatchable” – meaning that no receiver in the league could have caught the pass as it was either thrown out of bounds or it was nowhere close enough for Bryant to make a reasonable attempt at the ball. One of the targets was voided due to a pass interference and another was just a good play by cornerback Bradley Roby to break up the ball on a fade pass.

Despite the insane number of targets, it wasn’t that bad of a day for Bryant. But to prove why it wasn’t that bad, let’s peek at the film to examine some of his targets.

Early in the game, Bryant beat Aqib Talib for a touchdown on a beautiful back shoulder fade. There is no one in the league that is better at this route than Bryant because he’s so good at using his body to box out cornerbacks and he knows how to set up defenders by pretending to run the fade. When thrown on accurately and on time, there is no one in the league that can defend this pass. There just isn’t another player in the league that can run this route better than Bryant:

Aside from just the touchdown, Bryant made a few other nice catches throughout the game that helped lead to points. The one below occurred on the final drive of the first half that eventually led to Dan Bailey kicking a 56-yard field goal. Bryant was somehow able to keep his feet inbounds on this catch while maintaining control to the ground. Not many receivers have this kind of body control and spatial awareness to make this catch:

Aside from just catching the ball, Bryant made two plays that have gone unnoticed, but likely helped save Prescott from a ton of negative media attention. Bryant saved Prescott from throwing two ill-advised interceptions in the second half. Both were against cornerback Aqib Talib on outside routes that Prescott threw too far inside. The first one was on a comeback route: