The Cowboys’ offense had been a tire fire the past three weeks. With running back Ezekiel Elliott serving his six-game suspension after a league investigation into domestic violence allegations and left tackle Tyron Smith limited with a groin injury, Dallas couldn’t find its footing. The team scored just seven, nine, and six points in consecutive games—all losses—and effectively played itself to the very fringe of playoff contention.
Thursday, in a matchup against the Redskins, the Cowboys figured out how to get out of their funk: They remembered that Dez Bryant exists.
On a drive in the third quarter, the broadcast caught Bryant yelling “give me the ball,” and a few plays later, Dallas did:
VINTAGE DEZ. #ThrowUpTheX because that's a #dallascowboys TD, courtesy of @dezbryant!#WASvsDAL pic.twitter.com/7ygNJywieO— NFL (@NFL) December 1, 2017
That grab came just three plays after this one:
A pass from @dak and @dezbryant is making guys miss!@dallascowboys are in the red zone to start the 4th.#WASvsDAL pic.twitter.com/u4RMlO58i1— NFL (@NFL) December 1, 2017
On the next drive, Dallas drove into the red zone again and went to Bryant on a similar route as the touchdown above. Bryant didn’t come down with it this time, but he drew a pass interference call from cornerback Bashaud Breeland in the end zone. Alfred Morris punched the ball in on the next play, giving Dallas a 31-14 lead with 4:55 left—effectively cementing the team’s win and keeping the Cowboys’ playoff hopes alive.
There is not a lot of mystery to what is going on in the two plays above: Dallas is giving the ball to their best player and letting him play. Rewatch that touchdown. He’s got a hand in his face—it was called pass interference—and still elevated a full head, shoulders, and freaking belly button above Breeland.
Bryant is one of the true freak-of-nature talents at wide receiver, but with Elliott, Dak Prescott, Jerry Jones, and the headlines Dallas generates on a near-daily basis, it’s easy for him to fly under the radar. It seems even the Cowboys had forgotten about him: Bryant averaged just 46 receiving yards per game in the last three contests—all without Elliott—and hadn’t scored a touchdown since Week 7.
To put this into context: three running backs, eight tight ends, and 49 wideouts have had a 100-yard game receiving this year. Bryant is not one of them.
Bryant didn’t crack the century mark in this game, but he should soon. Thursday, he reminded the Cowboys of the types of plays he can make when given the chance. Hopefully, the team won’t forget it again.