LANDOVER, Md.– There wasn't anything especially amazing about Jason Witten's 1,000th catch, which is exactly the way he wanted it.
The perennial Pro Bowler sat down in middle the Washington defense on 2nd-and-6, and Matt Cassel found him for seven yards. It was the type of play he's come to be known for, as evidenced by the fact that he's now just the 12th NFL player and the second tight end to log 1,000 career receptions.
"That was kind of my play – the little stick route," Witten said. "I don't think Matt had any clue what was going on at the time, but it needed to be a first down. There was really nothing pretty about it, probably the way I would want it – just a nice first down, keep the chains moving."
It was the type of workmanlike performance Witten has become known for, as his five catches for 45 yards put him at 60 receptions for 553 yards on the season. He was the Cowboys' leading receiver on the night when the offense struggled to get moving, and he helped them get into position for two of Dan Bailey's four field goals.
"We continued to fight, we stayed together, we got the turnover there – it was really a complete team effort," Witten said. "The defense helped us, they played unbelievable today and then we capitalized on our opportunities. There's a lot of things we can do better, but just an unbelievable win."
Witten joined some Hall of Fame company on Monday night, but his most memorable moment won't be any of his five catches – not even the 1,000th one. Instead, the lasting image will be of the All-Pro heaving Dan Bailey into the air following his go-ahead 54-yard field goal, which would ultimately win the game.
"I didn't know if he was going to tackle me or lift me up or what – he's a pretty big guy. But it was exciting," Bailey said.
Given the Cowboys' position as playoff contenders despite their 4-8 record, Witten said his excitement is understandable. Despite a turbulent season that has involved a seven-game losing streak, the unpredictability of the NFC East has left the Cowboys with realistic playoff hopes despite a lackluster record.
"I was pretty excited. When you're 4-8 and playing in this league, to be one game back – that doesn't happen," he said. "We're fortunate, there's a lot of excitement, the spirit is great. We're looking forward to what's going to happen."
The thrill of the playoff chase doesn't detract from the size of the accomplishment, though. Witten has been eying this milestone for several weeks, and the magnitude of it wasn't lost on him. His family made the trip to FedEx Field and savored it with him.
"It's been an amazing career for me, and to be able to have it up here in Washington against a division opponent – as I've said all week, the last couple of weeks, I'm just humbled by it," he said. "To join that list of names, some of the best players who have played and definitely a lot of Hall of Famers – to do it at the tight end position, I can't thank all the people that have helped me get to that point. A lot of great teammates, a lot of great coaches – great quarterback too."
Cassel might have been the quarterback to throw him his 1,000th catch, but there can be little doubt about which quarterback Witten was referring to. In total, Witten has caught 649 passes for 7,287 yards and 37 touchdowns from Tony Romo.
And even if the reception itself wasn't a pretty one, Witten plans to commemorate it. He secured it for safekeeping – and then went right back to work.
"I'll make sure to keep that one," he said. "Don't let my kids play with that one in the garage. Keep that one in a safe place."