The Dallas Cowboys haven’t been in a NFC Championship Game since 1996 after the 1995 season. 25 years of divisional round disappointments and bad luck. For a team as popular and as talented as the Dallas Cowboys have been at different times since their last championship game, it’s always shocking that they haven’t found a way to break through.
And it’s not because they haven’t had their opportunities. They’ve come close. While they won’t have an opportunity to change the narrative this season, one former Cowboys great will be playing for a shot to make a championship game this weekend; Former Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant.
Dez Bryant, the Cowboys all-time leader in touchdown receptions, came close on two occasions to help the Cowboys break through that divisional round ceiling. Both games came against the Green Bay Packers and both had varying circumstances that led to their defeat.
Facing the Packers at Lambeau Field in the 2014 divisional round, the Cowboys were playing that game close to the chest, as was the style of Jason Garrett’s smash mouth football teams. Things were going well until the NFL’s league leader in rushing yards, DeMarco Murray fumbled the ball and the Packers were able to recover. The Cowboys were driving on that series and had a great chance to score. The fumble hurt, and it set the stage for a play that will live in infamy forever. The Dez Bryant “catch” at the end of the game.
Then in 2016, with rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott leading the way, the Cowboys got off to a slow start, falling behind 21-3 early in the second quarter. The Cowboys rallied thanks to an epic performance by Bryant who caught nine passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. It was Dez’s play in the second half of that game that helped the Cowboys tie it late before an incredible catch by Jared Cook along the sideline set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal.
But now, a resurgent Dez Bryant has an opportunity to break through that divisional round glass ceiling with the Baltimore Ravens. Though he didn’t register a catch in the Ravens Wild Card win over the Tennessee Titans, he’s still getting his legs back under him after getting bumped to the 53-man roster in late November.
Prior to his first game action this season, Bryant hadn’t played since 2017. That’s a long stretch to be out of football. With a Ravens team that wants to run the ball with Lamar Jackson, JK Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Mark Ingram, Bryant’s blocking ability fits right in.
It is to be determined how much playing time Bryant will get, however facing an explosive Buffalo Bills offense that is putting a ton of points on the board lately, this could be a game where Bryant gets a lot more opportunities if the Ravens are having to play catch up.
Even though he hasn’t played a down for the Cowboys in three years, Bryant remains a beloved figure in both the locker room and with the fan base. In a great matchup Saturday night between the Ravens and the Bills, Bryant’s opportunity to get to a conference title game for the first time provides a reason for Cowboys fans to tune in.