ARLINGTON, Texas -For the past three weeks one of the biggest questions surrounding the Cowboys was what was wrong with Jason Witten? Is he still hurt? Are the drops in his head? Is he over the hill?
Every angle was covered, but the general opinion was that the Cowboys needed Witten to return to his former self in order for the offense to reach its potential.* *Well, vintage Jason Witten showed up for Monday night's contest against the Bears. Unfortunately it wasn't much help for the offense, which looked as abysmal as ever while accounting for five interceptions.
Witten led both teams in receptions with 13 and racked up 112 yards. His role as security blanket for Tony Romo was reaffirmed as Romo often targeted the tight end when his first and second options were covered. Witten even caught his first touchdown of the season, thrown by Kyle Orton after the game was out of reach.
Witten, who would much rather have a win than a good statistical night, claimed that he always knew that he would bounce back.
"I never doubted myself in that situation … I know what I'm capable of," Witten said. "I know how I feel and play. I was able to help us get some drives going. I got to keep it going and I got to play better."
Moorman Impresses In His Debut
Another very small silver lining in the Cowboys 34-18 loss was the impressive play of newly acquired punter Brian Moorman. After the leg injury to Chis Jones, the longtime Buffalo Bills leg was brought in to fill in. However, Moorman did much more than just hold serve.
Moorman punted the ball three times, pinning the Bears inside the six-yard line twice. Devin Hester was only able to return one punt, which he ran for just eight yards. The Cowboys benefitted from great field position until the turnovers started to change the game.
After 12 years in the league, Moorman talked about his first game punting in anything other than a Buffalo Bills jersey.
"It was great. I couldn't ask for a better place to kick than this."
Despite Moorman's excellent performance, he still humbly understands that he may only be keeping Jones' starting spot warm for him until he comes back.
"Just to be back out on the field and a part of this team for whatever amount of time it's going to be, it's an honor to be here," Moorman said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity."
Offensive Line Improves On Timing
The Cowboy's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3 featured 13 penalties from the Dallas offensive line and constant pressures on Tony Romo. In Monday night's blowout loss to the Bears, the offensive line showed improvement in one regard, drawing zero flags. No false starts. No holdings.
It did not mean much in terms of the final score, but it is a big step for what had looked to be the Cowboys' greatest weakness this season.
Center Ryan Cook said that the offensive line made a concerted effort to improve upon their early season mistakes.
"We looked at the tape last week and saw what issues that we had and had to get fixed," Cook said. "I thought this game was by far the best communication that we've had so I think that helped everybody get on the same page."
Jason Witten(112 yards) and Dez Bryant(105) each topped 100 receiving yards to mark the first time the Cowboys had a pair of100-yard receivers in a game since Miles Austin (143) and Witten (102) did it at San Francisco (9/18/11).
Miles Austin's 57 yards Monday gave him 3,594 for his career to pass Billy Joe DuPree (3,565), Jay Novacek (3,576) and Terrell Owens (3,587) for eighth in club record books.
Austin's touchdown catch gave him his 31st career scoring reception to tie Lance Rentzel for ninth in Cowboys history.
Cole Beasleyhad his first career receptions Monday, finishing with two for 14 yards.
Josh Brentnotched his first career sack Monday.
Bryant's 105-yard performance was his second career 100-yard game and a career-high. His first was at the N.Y. Giants (11/14/10) when he finished with 104 yards.
Andre Holmes had caught his first career pass Monday for seven yards.
Danny McCray made the first start of his career, filling in at safety after Barry Church was placed on Reserve/Injured (Achilles) last week.
Kyle Ortonmade his Cowboys debut Monday in the fourth quarter and completed nine-of-10 passes for 89 yards with a touchdown.
Tony Romo's touchdown toss Monday was his 154th career touchdown throw. He broke a tie with Roger Staubach for sole possession of third place on the Dallas Cowboys all-time touchdown pass list.
Romo finished the game with 307 passing yards, to up his club record of 300-yard passing games to 33.
Romo also suffered five interceptions Monday to tie his career high previously established at Buffalo (10/8/07).
Phillip Tanner had his first career catch Monday and finished with two grabs for 20 yards.
DeMarcus Ware had a sack Monday in which he forced his 30th career fumble to extend his club record. His last three sacks (two from last week) have each resulted in a forced fumble.
Witten's 100-yard outing upped his Cowboys tight end record of 100-yard games to 15.
Witten's touchdown reception Monday was his 42nd career scoring grab and his first since his 59-yard score at Washington (11/20/11). His 42 touchdown catches broke a tie with Billy Joe DuPree for sole possession of sixth on the club's all-time touchdown receptions list.