The Cowboys failed to finish against the LA Rams on Sunday, putting themselves at 2-2 through the first quarter of the season. This home loss to the Rams put a little bit of everything that's been off with this Dallas team so far on the field in just four quarters, particularly on offense where the Cowboys scored just six points in the second half to let the Rams come all the way back.
Coming into this game, optimism was high in Cowboys Nation that Dez Bryant would finally have a breakout game against a Rams secondary that doesn't feature a CB at the level of Janoris Jenkins, Aquib Talib, or Patrick Peterson.
Throughout the afternoon, Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan used Bryant creatively to try to get his top target going. After watching the film, the frustrating results were a product of Dak Prescott's misses along with some great coverage by the Rams.
Here is every single passes intended for Dez Bryant on Sunday. 7 of his 13 targets were uncatchable: pic.twitter.com/DJizQDnFWl
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 2, 2017
Let's take a closer look in Sean's Scout.
Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant got off to a hot start in this game, connecting on the first play of the game downfield. The route by Bryant is vintage Dez, as he wins with his pure size and strength at the stem before dominating at the catch point.
Typically, Dez Bryant is the man used in Linehan's offense to free up others underneath – where Prescott is at his best throwing in rhythm. This is why there was so much excitement surrounding the Cowboys offense in Prescott's second year, with a rookie like Ryan Switzer joining slot star Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, and Terrance Williams.
Of course, all of this was predicated on Bryant getting his numbers as well, and on the above play you'll see the vertical route by Butler clear space for Bryant to work back to the football and create an easy throw for Prescott.
This was a look the Cowboys came back to multiple times, but were unable to hit #88 with any consistency.
Working Dez Bryant out of the slot was also a great look for Dallas' offense on Sunday, but another one that was not taken full advantage of. As Dak channels his inner Tony Romo, watch Bryant effortlessly accelerate up field with nothing but space in front of him. If Prescott had a clean pocket to throw from, Bryant would be hit in stride for an even bigger gain.
With so many pieces to match up with on offense, it is easy for the Cowboys to forget that Dez Bryant is their most simple “match up nightmare”. Winning at the catch point comes easy for Bryant, who means so much to this entire team when he begins taking over games through the air.
Breakdowns in communication like these held the Cowboys offense back in this home loss, as Bryant again frees himself at the stem of his route only to see the ball thrown over his head and out of bounds.
Perhaps expectations were too high for Prescott and Bryant to take another step up together in this offense, after seeing what Bryant did with Tony Romo in 2014. While Bryant is already playing at his ceiling (or potentially declining), Prescott is going to develop in front of Cowboys Nation's eyes even more this season. Coming from a spread system in college, working a receiver like Bryant will take a while for Prescott to master.
The brilliance of the Dallas offense is that they don't need Bryant to dominate games, but there just aren't many teams in this league that can win at the level the Cowboys are hoping this season without week-to-week contributions from their primary wide receiver.
With the Green Bay Packers in town this week, Prescott will have another chance to return to form and lead a Cowboys offense that is realizing that plenty of teams around this league can sell out to stop Ezekiel Elliott – still succeeding defensively thanks to Bryant's ineffectiveness.
It is throws like this last one below that provide hope for Dez Bryant to dominate sooner rather than later, as the games become more meaningful for the Dallas Cowboys and production from a WR with his talent is absolutely needed.
To say that Dak Prescott needs to win games for the Cowboys this season is fair, but it is more accurate to say that this young quarterback needs to let Dez Bryant help him win these games – leaving multiple chances to do so on the field at AT&T Stadium in week four.
#Cowboys Film thread: Dez Bryant's targets against the #Rams.
— Sean Martin ✭ (@SeanMartinNFL) October 4, 2017