Dez Bryant was getting serious ribbing from teammate Dwayne Harris in the locker room after the game. He knows he probably won't ever hear the end of it.
Sure, he had a 44-yard punt return that helped the Cowboys ice the victory over the Bucs. But he didn’t score what would have been his third career punt return for a touchdown, his first since his rookie season in 2010.
“I’m disappointed,” Bryant said. “I keep catching heat from [Kevin] Ogletree and Dwayne about it. It was all good. I’ve got to make it up.”
It was redemption for both Bryant and the Cowboys special teams.
Bryant had only three catches for 17 yards and two punt returns for 2 yards last week in the loss to Seattle. He spent the first half of Sunday’s game barking on the sidelines for more opportunities in the passing game.
Bryant finished with six catches for 62 yards, but his biggest contribution was his fourth-quarter punt return.
With the Cowboys clinging to a 13-7 lead with 4:59 left, Bryant fielded a punt at midfield and quickly found a hole. He raced 44 yards, hurdling punter Michael Koenen before being brought down at the 6-yard line by Mason Foster. That set up Dan Bailey’s 22-yard field goal for a two-score lead.
“The guys, they set it up real good,” Bryant said. “They all got their blocks, and they did a great job. They left it up to me.”
One week after special teams play put the Cowboys in an early, 10-0 hole against Seattle, Bryant’s punt return and Orie Lemon’s second-quarter recovery of Jordan Shipley’s fumbled punt return helped rescue a stagnant offense. It was Lemon’s NFL debut after being called up from the practice squad Saturday.
“The kids bounced back today,” special teams coach Joe DeCamillis said.
Last week, Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff, which the Seahawks used for a field goal. Later in the first quarter, the Cowboys had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown when Dan Connor missed a block.
"I think the kids played hard, and they prepared hard, and they did it the week before," DeCamillis said. "A lot of times what you don’t recognize is the other team gets paid, too. They’re out there trying to make a play on you, and they made a play on us last week. I couldn’t have put it on a better guy. Danny Connor is as prepared and as good a guy as you’ll be around. They made a play on us, and you’ve got to go on from it, and we will. We’re going to keep working at it and keep getting better."
-- Charean Williams