DEZ BRYANT made the rounds yesterday 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 the Eagles to finish the season, and Dallas (7-7) ends a 3-year playoff drought. Lose to the free-falling 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 yesterday in a mostly empty locker room at the team's training facility. Bryant had waited 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 yesterday 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.
* An apparent rift between the New York Giants' defense and offense surfaced Sunday after their 23-0 loss to Seattle.
Safety Antrel Rolle said some teammates lacked passion, heart and even a pulse, comments clearly directed toward the offense.
Tight end Brandon Myers later tweeted he was "cussed out" for telling people they played well and denied not being passionate.
"Am I surprised by it? No!" coach Tom Coughlin said of the rift yesterday. "I was surprised by some of what was made of it. But we have an outstanding group of guys and they are competitive and it was a difficult loss in a frustrating year, to be honest with you, and so some of that came out.
"But today is a day of, as I put it, healing again, recognizing who we are."
Rolle defended his comments, but insisted that he was encouraging the offense to be better, not seeking to divide the team.
Myers seemingly took it personally. "If ppl on this team wanna take shots at me an say I have no passion they are mistaken," he tweeted after the game. "I give everything I have each an every week."
Myers was apologetic yesterday, noting that he overreacted, got emotional and hit the button on the tweet before thinking about what he was saying. He said none of his teammates confronted him after the game, and called his actions showed poor judgment.
* Mike Shanahan said he has no plans to resign, then reminded everyone that he might not be back as coach of the Washington Redskins. He then cryptically offered a picture of the possible changes that might be in store if he does return. He dropped fired Houston coach Gary Kubiak's name twice, stoking speculation that there might be a new offensive coordinator, a job now held by Shanahan's son, Kyle. He also said that Robert Griffin III is "clearly" the starting quarterback but would welcome "legitimate competition" from Kirk Cousins.
The Redskins (3-11) have lost six straight, and the coach has 1 year remaining on his 5-year, $35 million contract. Shanahan reiterated that his fate won't be determined until he and owner Dan Snyder meet at the end of the season.
* New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith anticipates another training-camp competition for the starting job next summer. Smith said he hasn't lived up to his own expectations in the Jets' 6-8 season.
Meanwhile, Rex Ryan was telling reporters he thinks he is the right man to lead the Jets beyond this season.
* San Francisco fullback Bruce Miller is expected to miss the rest of the season with a left shoulder-blade injury sustained Sunday at Tampa Bay.
* Cleveland star cornerback Joe Haden said a painful hip pointer could keep him out of this week's game against the Jets.