For the second straight year, the Dallas Cowboys lost a win-or-go-home game in Week 17 for a chance at the playoffs. Bring on the Tony Romo haters. There’s no doubt that Romo’s third and final interception of the game against the Redskins was a poor decision. It cost the Cowboys their playoff dreams. Let’s also not forget Dallas doesn’t win more than three games without Romo under center. He is an enigma and one of the biggest teases in pro sports. He appears to be one of the nicest guys in football, but has some of the worst luck in the big spot.
Jason Witten finished this season with an NFL-record 110 receptions, the most ever by a tight end in a single season, along with 1,039 receiving yards with three touchdowns. This was all after a preseason spleen injury that limited him to just eight catches over the first three weeks of the season. Witten is standing by his quarterback and believes Romo’s mental toughness will help him rise to the challenge next season.
Jason Witten joined KTCK in Dallas on BaD Radio to discuss Tony Romo’s third interception late in the fourth quarter against Washington, his sideline discussion with Romo caught on camera during the game on NBC and his support for Romo after Sunday’s loss to the Redskins.
What happened on the third and final interception from Tony Romo to end the Cowboys season?
“Well, going into that drive you felt like, ‘Hey, we are in a good situation. We have been here before.’ I thought there was a feeling that, ‘Hey, here we go again. We are going to go down and score here.’ It was good to get a stop from our defense and have an opportunity there. Ultimately, like you said, I thought we did a great job. We are able to ‘check’ plays and the blitz was coming. He [Tony Romo] hit me across the middle for a 14-yard gain. It was a great way to start the possession. They come with the pressure and dropped the defensive end out and he tried to hit DeMarco Murray on the swing route and the defensive end does a good job of coming off and making a play. It’s just a matter of inches. If you go back and look at that play, if the ball is a little bit ahead of him, then he probably has an opportunity to go for a 25-30 yard gain. It’s tough, but that’s the way this game is, of yards. It’s a matter of inches every week. Give them credit: It was a good blitz and the defensive end, No. 50 there coming off and they made the play to seal the game.”
During the game, were you and Tony Romo having a heated discussion about getting open because the Redskins blitzed so much, as Cris Collinsworth noted?
“Yeah, I mean, we were talking about the pressure and, in that specific look and situation, I am the hot adjustment and sometimes Tony can make the decision, does he want to throw to the hot? And he does a great job of it, buying time and making the big throw. Just like anything, when you pressure, there are going to be holes. It’s just a matter of being able to attack it down the field, and so we were talking through that and you are right. It is one-on-one coverage and I think I do a good job of understanding who’s ‘hot’ and giving the throw. A lot of times when you are in that situation, we always say handle the heat and get past the heat. A lot of handling the heat is showing you got an answer. A six-yard completion might not seem like much. It is showing them, ‘Hey, we got an answer for this pressure. We are going to get six yards and come back and run another play.’ That’s pretty defeating for a defense when you have an answer for their pressure and you can get the six yards right away and let them know we have an answer and then we are going to take our shots at times. The other part of that is, adapt to the heat — take your shots down the field when they try to bring that pressure. We did that a lot throughout the season, so we didn’t do a good enough job of handling it, and they did a good job of coming with different pressure. That’s what all that conversation and dialogue is about.”
What’s your level of communication with Tony Romo after a game like that, in the hours or days later?
“There’s no question, you spend 10 years with somebody and unfortunately there’s a lot been a lot of successful days at the office and there’s been some days that we wish we could have back. You are supportive and you work through it together. I mean, the [Theodore] Roosevelt quote I love is the man in the arena and that’s what it’s all about, being in the fight, whether you come up short knowing that we are going to better and sticking together and fight through it. Honestly, I believe in him. I thought he played really, really well most of the season and, really, for the entire season. There was a stretch there where he carried our entire football team. When you do come up short, you are going to get criticized until you compete for a championship. Those critics are going to come, obviously, for him and all of us, but man he’s a strong guy. He’s mentally tough and physically plays at a high level, and you put your arm around him and support him, but at the same time you evaluate it together when the time is right. You can be better because of it. You don’t just ignore it and allow it to be the elephant in the room. He does a great job of that. His expectations are high and we’ll bounce back and be better because of it. I know that’s not what people want to hear and that’s not what I want to hear and it’s tough to turn on that TV come Saturday and Sunday and watch those games and that’s the reality of where it’s at. That’s the way this league works. I believe he is the right guy and he’s a phenomenal player and leader and had a great season.”