Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) misses a pass as Green Bay Packers strong safety Morgan Burnett (42) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)
Dez Bryant made the rounds Monday trying to explain why he left the field early in Dallas' crushing loss to Green Bay.
The emotional receiver just couldn't watch the Packers take a knee three times for a 37-36 victory after the Cowboys led 26-3 at halftime. He was afraid he was going to cry in front of the cameras, so he says he took the tears to the locker room.
Now it's time for a two-game test for the Cowboys' biggest playmaker and the resolve of Tony Romo after his latest failure in key moments.
Beat Washington and Philadelphia to finish the season, and Dallas (7-7) ends a three-year playoff drought. Lose to the freefalling Redskins on Sunday, and the Cowboys might be eliminated before they even play their final game.
All this after they had a near-certain victory in hand against the Packers that would have pulled them even with the Eagles atop the NFC East and given them a chance to wrap up a playoff berth at Washington.
"The trend's not going to continue because we're going to do what we need to do," Bryant said Monday in a mostly empty locker room at the team's training facility. "This whole group in this locker room, we believe and we're going to keep working."
Bryant, who made similar headlines earlier in the season with a sideline rant during another deflating defeat at Detroit, was waiting for reporters so he could tell them that leaving with time still on the clock "was absolutely not right."
That was essentially the message in his conversation with coach Jason Garrett, who said his star receiver wasn't disciplined.
"It's difficult for everybody when things don't go well and he needs to understand how to handle that," Garrett said. "I think he'll handle that better in the future. He was very apologetic to me and was concerned about the situation."
Bryant's latest sideline moment didn't face as much scrutiny Monday as Romo's decision to check out of a running play before throwing an interception that gave Green Bay another chance down 36-31 with less than 3 minutes to go.
The Cowboys were in position to force the Packers to go most of the field in less than 2 minutes even if they didn't get a first down. Instead, Matt Flynn took over for Green Bay at midfield and led a scoring drive.
Another interception from Romo completed the collapse.
"I think in hindsight you would say that was the wrong decision, and Tony would be the first to tell you that," Garrett said of the first interception.
"Sometimes it's OK on second-and-6 to hand the ball off, take your lumps, and deal with the third down, force them to use another timeout, and then just work that situation out."
Now Romo has to find a way to lead a team that has given away two games, been blown out of two others and has a personal history of late-game and late-season failures.
The latest left tight end Jason Witten with nothing much to say beyond "words can't really describe it" after the game.
"If you have the right kind of guys on your team, you handle the inevitable adversities of the season better than if you don't," Garrett said. "If you put emotion into something, passion into something and it doesn't work out, sometimes that's hard to swallow. But again, you have to regroup."
The challenge for Bryant might be the biggest.
"I know for me it's very, very, very hard to swallow," said Bryant, who had 153 yards and a touchdown that put Dallas up 12 midway through the fourth quarter.
"That kind of stuff leaves scars. It brings pain. I know that's what it brought to me."