Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys: Hero and Zero of the Game
Hero: Dez Bryant
For the first time all season, Dez Bryant was able to put up great numbers without having an asterisk attached to his performance (*he dropped three passes, *dropped the game-tying 2-point conversion, *fumbled a punt).
Bryant was un-coverable for the Cleveland secondary, finishing the game with 12 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Those numbers could have been higher if the refs had not blown a play dead where Bryant was fighting for yards and broke free of four defenders for what would have been a long touchdown.
Bryant's contributions went beyond his numbers, he also drew several holding penalties that allowed Dallas drives to keep going. Bryant now has back to back impressive performances that came without any glaring mistakes. Also he seems to have finally gotten on the same page as Tony Romo, no longer being in one spot and having Romo throw to a different spot.
If he can continue to produce without making mistakes, Bryant will be a huge asset for the Cowboys as they try to make a push to the playoffs.
Zero: Cleveland's Secondary
While Tony Romo's line of 35-for-50 with 315 yards and a touchdown isn't particularly spectacular, Cleveland's secondary gave Romo and the Cowboys plenty of extra yardage through penalties. Almost every long drive the Cowboys had was aided by penalties from the Cleveland secondary, starting late in the second quarter with back to back holding penalties on cornerback Buster Skrine.
From there it only got worse, with Cleveland cornerbacks being flagged for pass interference on both of Dallas' touchdown drives. However, the worst drive came at the end of regulation, with Dallas down by three points with one timeout and just 1:07 remaining.
After a short completion to Jason Witten, Kevin Ogletree was unable to make a catch in between two defenders for what should have been a 3rd and 6 play. However because safety TJ Ward hit Ogletree helmet-to-helmet the Cowboys were awarded 15 yards.
After a completion to Miles Austin to reach mid-field, Romo fired deep for Dwayne Harris who was interfered with by Sheldon Brown to give the Cowboys the ball at the 14 yard line. All in all the Browns handed the Cowboys 50 yards in penalties on the final drive, the drive where they needed to make a stop in order to win.
What made this even worse was the fact that the Browns' pass rush was very impressive all game, sacking Romo seven times and pressuring him constantly. So there was really no excuse for the Browns' secondary to play as badly as they did.