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Does Dez Bryant Have a Legitimate Gripe with Tony Romo, Cowboys Offense?

Oct 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) along the sidelines prior to playing the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles 17-3. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Gary DavenportNFL AnalystDecember 18, 2016

It's somewhat understandable that the Dallas Cowboys were frustrated in Week 8. After all, for the second time this year the Cowboys watched as a close game against a good team got away from them at the end.

However, there's frustration, and then there's wide receiver Dez Bryant's thermonuclear meltdown on the sidelines as the Cowboys played the Detroit Lions.

Bryant nearly lost his mind on Sunday. First, the 24-year-old wideout went ballistic on receivers coach Derek Dooley and quarterback Tony Romo.

Bryant was just getting started. After the Lions scored the go-ahead touchdown with only seconds left in the game, Bryant and tight end Jason Witten had to be separated by defensive end DeMarcus Ware after a heated exchange.

Granted, players sometimes get caught up in the heat of the moment. For his part, Bryant made no apologies when speaking with Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:

My passion is always positive. It's always positive. It's going to remain the same way. I'm not saying anything wrong. I'm not saying anything bad. It's all positive. That's just what it is. I'm the nicest person off the field. When I'm on the field, even when I look angry, it's still all good passion. It's all good passion. I feel like that's what we need. I'm going to remain the same way. I feel like I love this game. I love it. In order to win, you've got to be passionate about this game. You have to be. You've got to let that dog come out and just put it all out there on the line.

Dez looked positive, all right. Positively pissed off.

And that's the thing. Lots of players throw the occasional fit on the sideline. Bryant's, however, was especially rabid, and it causes one to wonder whether this was a one-time thing or emblematic of some underlying bad feelings.

There are more than a few people who feel Bryant had a legitimate beef Sunday:

Wiley has a point. In a game billed as a showdown between Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson, it was all Johnson...largely because he was given the opportunity to make plays.

Week 8 WR Comparison
TargetsRec.YardsTD
Calvin Johnson1614329*1
Dez Bryant63722
* Second-highest single game in NFL history

Six targets for Bryant against a Detroit secondary that was just abused by Cincinnati's A.J. Green is an eyebrow-raising number. Against the Lions, there really isn't a good reason for Bryant to only be targeted six times, even if he's bracketed by double coverage all day.

Bryant has shown time and again that double coverage or no, if you put the ball in a spot where he can make a play, he's usually going to make it.

Bryant, like Johnson and Green, is open even when he isn't open. If Matthew Stafford didn't target Johnson when he was double (or triple) covered, Megatron would never see any passes.

However, Bryant's beef doesn't hold up over the long haul. When you look at the target numbers for wide receivers this season, Bryant ranks right up there.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), only four wideouts (Johnson, Green, Vincent Jackson and Cecil Shorts) have been targeted more than Bryant this season. The fourth-year pro has been targeted 9.5 times per game, and only one fewer time all season than Johnson.

In fact, just one week prior against the Philadelphia Eagles, Bryant was targeted a staggering 17 times.

He's getting thrown at as much as anyone. The Detroit game was an outlier, only the second time this year Bryant was targeted fewer than eight times.

Should the Cowboys have thrown Bryant's way more against the Lions? Yes. Romo completed fewer than half of his passes against Detroit, and Terrance Williams managed only two catches despite being thrown at 10 times. Two of Romo's three touchdown passes were caught by Bryant.

That doesn't change the fact, however, that until that last-minute drive, the Cowboys led almost the entire game.

Why no yelling at the defense, Dez? That's the real problem in Dallas right now.

Bryant got caught up in a close game and wanted the ball more. There's nothing wrong with that. Deion Sanders lauded that fire while appearing on the NFL Network, according to NFL.com.

He is the only guy on that team that plays with that kind of passion. The only guy. At certain times he shows immaturity. (However), you can't want the passion, mental toughness and aggressiveness on the field but not want it off the field. I guarantee you he is yelling about the way his team is performing ... and ball distribution. You can't ask for his passion and intensity in certain areas of the game but not really want it when it is really going down.

With that said, Bryant needs to do a better job of being fiery without acting like a six-year-old who was just told that having candy corn at dinner doesn't count as eating your vegetables.

It's not about public perception, either. If 95 percent of Americans think Dez Bryant is a diva, I'm 98 percent certain he couldn't care less.

The Dallas Cowboys are a first-place football team right now trying to erase years of second-half swoons and disappointments.

Now, instead of shaking off another heartbreaking loss and looking ahead to the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys are holding closed-door meetings with players to smooth things over.

That and the endless questions about the Detroit dust-up are distractions that the Cowboys just don't need right now.

Soon we'll all move on to the next story, be it the change in quarterbacks in Houston or the coaching change that's probably coming in Tampa.

Bryant will go one being one of the most heavily targeted wideouts in the NFL. He'll laugh off this episode the next time he's being interviewed after a two-touchdown game.

With any luck, he'll also learn that tantrums, be they justified or not, are best conducted in the privacy of the locker room.

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