Bryant happy with his own progress

The Sports Xchange
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Wide receiver Dez Bryant is playing his best football now and he is healthy as he has been all season. He could be a bright spot for the Cowboys going down the stretch.

Bryant had a season high eight catches for 86 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals last Sunday. He also had big punt returns to spark drives the past two games.

Bryant's overall numbers for the season -- 46 catches for 706 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns --are modest considering the beast-like expectations of him coming into the season.

But he has continued to work hard, stay patient and improve.

His play of late, especially late in games, are signs of progress. He was shut out in the second half of four games earlier in the season.

Bryant credits his increased production to maturing and learning how to be a professional. He said the big games will come for him. But he will stay patient, while terming himself a work in progress on and off the field.

"I can honestly say I'm more mature," Bryant said. "I look at a lot of things different. The little things do matter, like being where you're supposed to be. I don't even care if it's a minute late. Just being there on time. Not saying I was late, but just using that as an example. Just making sure you're watching film alone, a little bit more on your time, not just on the coaches' time. Just making sure that you've got everything down. I don't want to say that I'm all the way there. It's still a learning process for me. As long as I keep on talking to Miles (Austin) and Tony (Romo) and those guys, everything will be fine. They're doing it the right way, and that's the way I want to do it. It'll happen."

--Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has spent the week preaching that Sunday's showdown against the Giants is just another game.

Garrett doesn't want to place any extra importance on the game, saying it's one of 16 in the season and they all are important to get the Cowboys where they want to go.

"Every game is important," Garrett said in his typical coach-speak. "You get 16 chances in this league. You want to be your best for three hours each week to try to take full advantage of those opportunities."

The Cowboys' players, however, don't need Garrett to tell them the obvious. Sunday's game against the Giants could very well determine their season.

The Cowboys (7-5) currently have a one-game lead over the Giants (6-6). The game is essentially for first place in the NFC East and will allow the winner to control its own playoff destiny going into the final three games of the season.

If the Cowboys win, it would give them a two-game lead in the division with three games to play. It would also send the Giants to a fifth straight loss, preventing them from gaining any momentum.

A Giants win would put them in a tie for first place and a win on the road against the Cowboys. It would give them a huge advantage considering the two teams meet in New York for the season finale.

Considering the Cowboys lost last week at Arizona, it would have the Cowboys start the December stretch with a two-game losing streak and no momentum for the final stretch run toward the playoffs.

The Cowboys clearly know what's at stake.

Linebacker Bradie James said you can't understate the importance of the game.

"We have to win this game," James said. "There is nothing for us to sit here and have a debate about. Everybody in this locker room, everybody in this building knows how important this game is. So everybody has to step up."

Said linebacker DeMarcus Ware: "It's like a measuring stick of the NFC East, who really wants it. It's a big game. We're playing for first place, so it's not like it's a regular old game playing against just any other team. You're playing for a lot."

Safety Abe Elam said it's the most important game of the season.

"This is a big divisional game," Elam said. "Our goal is to make the playoffs and in order to do that, we have to take care of our business this week. So this is probably the biggest of our season yet."

SERIES HISTORY
98th regular season meeting. Cowboys elad series, 56-39-2. New York has won three of the last four and five of the last seven. They have won the last and only two at Cowboys Stadium.

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