The Dallas Cowboys are beginning to make their final push for a playoff berth with two games remaining. The plan is simple but no easy task: win the remaining games and the NFC East crown is wrapped up.
For a season that started out with an epic win against the New York Giants and had its peaks and valleys in between, the Cowboys find themselves with at least a chance to rectify the disappointment of last season. Coach Jason Garrett finally has this team playing playoff-caliber football despite having to deal with an onslaught of injuries that could have easily derailed the Cowboys' train.
There were contributions from established veterans, rookies,street free agents and some unlikely suspects. But that's what makes a team special and what is making the Cowboys a better football team rather than a collection of proven talent. But with so many injuries, it's amazing that the Cowboys are actually winning games against quality opponents.
So when the Cowboys were faced with the news that Dez Bryant suffered a broken left index finger against the Cincinnati Bengals, the fear was that his exit from the lineup would have drastic consequences.
Not only was he a catalyst in that Bengals game, but he followed that up with a 4-catch, 59-yard, one-touchdown performance against Pittsburgh the following week. Bryant's status for the Pittsburgh faced some serious doubt but, judging from that performance and watching progression during the season, it's become quite clear that the Tony Romo to Bryant connection is morphing into something special.
Along with his meteoric rise is the fact that Bryant wanted to delay the surgery to his finger and gut it out while helping this team accomplish their goals. This may serve as a clear example of the type of maturity and character that Cowboys nation has been waiting for.
Early on in Bryant's career, it was easy to see the lack of a rapport between he and Romo and the mounting frustration accompanying it. Despite his physical talents, Bryant was still running incorrect routes, dropping passes and spouting off on the sidelines. For many, it definitely became the source of indigestion.
But time and patience have a funny way of bringing things into focus. Over the last five weeks, the Romo-to-Bryant connection has produced quite a statistical compilation: Bryant has 34 receptions for just under 500 yards and seven touchdowns in that span. Some of those touchdowns have even come at the most crucial and clutch points in those games. Are we starting to see a big-game player?
What's more evident is that you see a confident player in Bryant that is reciprocated with the trust that Romo has shown him and that is special to see. But we may also be witnessing the birth of a potential top-three receiver with elite talent. Bryant's chemistry with Romo isn't quite at the level he has with Jason Witten,but it's slowly gaining momentum.
While some would argue that the return of DeMarco Murray has had a similar impact on this team, it ultimately may come down to the the combination of Romo and Bryant propelling the Cowboys back into the playoffs. And that's a place this franchise hasn't been a part of since 2009.