IRVING, Texas - It's unusual to describe a performance by Jason Witten as one with multiple drops, two false start penalties and a missed block that led to a sack on quarterback Tony Romo.
The veteran tight end has struggled in a way nobody's seen in his previous nine seasons. Witten insisted the puzzling performances the last two weeks, including a handful of drops, aren't a result of mental or physical issues. He's just not catching the ball the way he's accustomed to.
"No really excuses or any other way to say it," Witten said. "There was an opportunity to make plays. Not all of them are perfect opportunities to where it's just between the 8 and the 2 and you catch it and go on. But they're plays I expect to make, plays that you see week in and week out in the NFL, and I haven't made them over the last two weeks. I take full responsibility for it, and rest assured I'll get it fixed."
Witten's season never started the way he had anticipated. The spleen injury ended his preseason after one game against the Raiders. His status for the opener against the Giants remained in doubt, but the tight end played through it.
His two catches for 10 yards in New York could be attributed to the injury and a lack of conditioning and practice. He said three weeks into the season those can no longer be excuses.
"I wish there was a way I could say, 'Hey I wasn't feeling good,' or I'm pressing or anything like that," Witten said. "It's not that. That would be the easy way to get out of it. Bottom line is you've got to get it fixed."
Witten ended the Tampa Bay game with only two catches for eight yards. He finished with more drops than receptions, including his second drop on a deep ball in as many weeks that would have gone for at least a 30-yard completion. He admitted he's mad and frustrated at his play, but he maintained there's nothing more to it than failing to secure the catches.
He also offered no excuse for the penalties and said the blocking miscues resulted from miscommunication on the line. Witten accepted and understood the criticism, and he hopes he'll get the same opportunities in the coming weeks to make up for the dropped passes.
"I don't want my legacy or this time in my career to be remembered for that, and it won't be," Witten said. "I'll get it fixed."
If what head coach Jason Garrett said Monday is true, he won't have to worry about fewer targets. Garrett said Witten is "one of the best football players" he's ever been around, and the confidence in his tight end hasn't wavered.
"We believe a lot in the body of work, and sometimes you can say that game or these last couple games, boy is he a different player," Garrett said. "I like to believe he's the guy who's been playing on this team for the last 10 years. He's caught a ton of balls for us in critical situations."
After so many years of mistake-free football, it would make more sense if there was something to point to as a cause for the errors. Witten's mistakes are just one of many reasons the Cowboys have struggled to move the ball the last two weeks, yet they enter Week 4 of the regular season with a 2-1 record and atop the NFC East, which he said has made the recent struggles easier to deal with.
Witten said he hasn't lost confidence in himself, but it's an odd experience to have to answer questions about his personal struggles rather than the offense's struggles as a whole.
"It's tough," he said. "Every player, regardless of the sport, they go through adversity at some point. Obviously, this is it for me. It's a point in your career everything's going to be asked. Is he slowing down? Is he not being able to handle it? All that stuff. In my mind, it's ridiculous."