ARLINGTON, Texas – It’s a stat that’s almost too crazy to be true, especially considering the quality of the player involved.
That’s not to say it was Witten’s first multi-touchdown game. The veteran has had two other two-touchdown performances, but those passes were thrown by Vinny Testaverde, in 2004, and Jon Kitna, in 2010.
“It probably does surprise me,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett of the stat. “But they’re pretty good players. They’ve connected on a lot of plays in their careers.”
The significance of Witten’s night -- eight receptions, 70 yards and two touchdowns – is much bigger than quirky statistics, though. With two scores against the Giants, Witten is one touchdown short of his 2012 total after just one week.
“That was an area that I really focused on last year,” Witten said. “I had a bunch of catches, but touchdowns were something we worked on a lot.”
On top of that, Witten’s touchdown catches came from the Giants’ 15-yard line and 4-yard line, respectively – prime red zone territory. To see immediate improvement on a 2012 problem area, red zone offense, is bound to be gratifying.
“Certainly coming into this game we knew he was going to get a lot of attention, and he did,” Garrett said. “They were trying to reroute him at the line of scrimmage, double him a lot of different ways, but you’ve got to kind of keep working your offense and working the other guys, and when you get the opportunity, you’ve got to cash in.”
As if there was any doubt of Witten’s pedigree, his first touchdown catch put him over 9,000 receiving yards for his career. Witten is only the second Cowboy to reach 9,000 yards, behind Michael Irvin, and he’s just the third tight end to get there, after Shannon Sharpe and Tony Gonzalez.
Two of those are Pro Football Hall of Famers, and the third will be one when he finally retires. Here’s guessing Witten joins them one day.
Here are some more notes from the Cowboys’ 36-31 win:
- Another Cowboy who received plenty of attention from the Giants was
Dez Bryant. After an extremely productive preseason, Bryant finished Week 1 with just four catches for 22 yards with a long of seven. Romo said that was by design, as the Giants had Bryant double covered by a cornerback and a safety for seemingly the entire game. “More than anything, they were really not going to allow him to beat them this game.”
- Jones has made no secret of his desire to finally beat New York in his new stadium. Having accomplished that, he was able to joke about it. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to beat these Giants – I changed the name of the stadium,” he said.
- Romo’s lone interception of the night, and two of Eli Manning’s, were tipped before they were eventually caught. Giants safety Ryan Mundy, who picked off Romo after cornerback Prince Amukamara tipped the ball into the air, said that’s more prevalent in the early portion of the season. “Typically in the first game, the first couple of weeks in the season, you see a lot of tips – the timing’s off,” he said. “Tips, overthrows – so you know I was conscious of that and, thankfully, the ball fell into my lap.”
- Sunday’s win gave Dallas consecutive seasons with wins on opening day and improved the club’s opening-day record to 36-17-1 (16-7-1 at home).
- Dallas now has a 7-0 record (5-0 at home) when facing the N.Y. Giants in the season opener.
- The Cowboys defense forced three turnovers in the first quarter against the Giants. It was the first time in team history Dallas forced three turnovers in the first quarter. It was the ninth time in team history the Cowboys had three takeaways in one quarter and the first time since they had three in the fourth quarter against Buffalo on Nov. 13, 2011.
- Dallas added three more takeaways in the second half to give them six on the night. Sunday was the first time Dallas had six or more takeaways since notching five at Washington on Dec. 4, 2003.
Will Allen’s first quarter interception of Eli Manning was his first interception since the 2005 season, which he made for Tampa Bay.
- The win improved Tony Romo’s opening day record to 5-2.
Miles Austin’s 10 catches against the Giants ties his career high, and it’s the fifth time he’s reached that number. It’s been quite a while since he last reached 10 catches, however, as he last did it on Sept. 19, 2010, against Chicago. DeMarcus Ware’s interception of Manning on the first play of the game was just the second pick of his career. The first came in 2006, when he picked off Michael Vick and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown against Atlanta. Barry Church’s fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter was the first touchdown of his professional career.