Cowboys' Witten 9 Catches From Breaking TE Reception Record
Thursday, December 27th 2007, 5:43 pm
By: News On 6
IRVING, Texas (AP) - With the 2004 Kansas City Chiefs already out of the playoffs, the top priority in their season finale was making sure Tony Gonzalez set the single-season record for receptions by tight ends.
Sure enough, Gonzalez got the eight he needed to tie the mark, then another to break it. Then came a few more, giving him the honor of being the first tight end ever to hit 100.
And, for good measure, he nudged the mark to 102.
Wade Phillips was the opposing defensive coordinator that day. The 14-catch, stat-padding performance didn't really bother him because his San Diego Chargers already had won the division and would win the game, too.
Still, he remembers it vividly enough that on Sunday, he might even do the same thing.
Phillips is now the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and his star tight end, Jason Witten, is sitting on 94 catches going into the finale against Washington. A win or a loss hardly matters to the top-seeded Cowboys and Phillips has said he'd like anyone who is close to a milestone to get it.
So, Jason, you expecting the first nine passes to come your way?
``I don't know about that,'' Witten said, laughing. ``If it happens, then I'm excited. But I don't want anybody to go out of their way to make that happen. There's a lot more to play for than just that. (We want) to get into the playoffs and be rolling.''
Witten is having one of the best years a tight end has ever had. He's already fourth on the single-season catch list and ninth on the yardage list at 1,121; both are club records, too. Regardless of where he finishes on the single-season list, he's also tied the single-game record with 15 catches.
At least, that's the record going into Sunday.
Actually, if it falls this weekend, it'll probably be by Gonzalez. Still going strong in Kansas City, he has 92 catches and is playing in an even more meaningless game between the Chiefs and New York Jets.
With Witten likely to play no more than one half, Chiefs coaches might check the stats during the game and make sure Gonzalez gets enough to pass Witten on this season's chart and to protect his record, if necessary.
Thus, maybe Witten's target should be 100 catches, a plateau reached by no tight end other than Gonzalez.
``That's a LOT of catches,'' Witten said. ``I think about some of the (big) games I've had and I'm still not there. ... It's hard for anybody to get 100 catches, much less a tight end.''
There's only been one 100-catch season in Cowboys history: Michael Irvin in 1995, which also happens to be the last time Dallas won the Super Bowl. (Speaking of Super Bowls, the first two times Dallas won it, the leading receivers had fewer than 50 catches both times.)
Terrell Owens' career high is 100, done only once. Terry Glenn's best is 90, done way back in his rookie season.
Witten's previous best was 87 in 2004. He's been in the mid-60s the last two seasons.
``Jason is getting more credit this year, but he's been the same guy the last three years or four years,'' quarterback Tony Romo said. ``The bottom line is you are always looking for guys to win one-on-one matchups. I think Witten wins his one-on-one matchups over and over again.''
Romo's ascension is part of the reason, as is the absence of Glenn. The arrival of Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator has helped, too.
Witten has another theory.
``More than anything, it's the offensive line,'' he said. ``Their ability to protect and let me get out, whereas in the past I had to stay in and get that extra man to max protect. That would be the No. 1 reason. ... To be in this situation in the last game, it's been great.''
On Sunday, it might get better.