Jason Witten re-emerges in passing game

IRVING, Texas -- Sunday's win against the Indianapolis Colts served as a reminder that tight end Jason Witten remains a threat in the passing game.

As the Dallas Cowboys racked up rushing yards during the season, most of Witten's praise has been for his blocking. He has played a big part in DeMarco Murray becoming the NFL's leading rusher.

But in the last two weeks Witten has been a focal point through the air.

He has caught 14 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He had a season-high 90 yards on seven catches against the Colts that included a 25-yard touchdown on a throw in which Tony Romo became the Cowboys' all-time leading passer.

"When you know your team is going a different direction and the thought is that it's going to be better for the football team, it's easy to buy into that but as the season unfolds there's tough times in there," Witten said. "You don't have as many opportunities. You take on a different role. You embrace that and buy into that. You still play a critical role in doing things, setting the edge in the run game, and being a complete tight end but at different times, it is hard."

Witten has five games with two or fewer catches this season. The last time he had that many came in 2005, his third year in the league. His 14-catch run in the last two games is his best two-game total since Week 12-13 in 2012 when he caught 15 passes for 182 yards against the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

"I've always felt that's what I've done best throughout my career," Witten said. "Kind of the last couple of weeks, [passing game coordinator Scott Linehan], he's always said, 'Hang in there. Those opportunities are going to come. You're doing everything right.' I knew there were a lot of other guys who made sacrifices for the betterment of this team, to see it unfold the way it has, it feels good. I think that's the mindset of the entire team. Nobody is bigger than the team. We all have roles and it's going to play out."

Despite the lower-than-normal reception total, coach Jason Garrett has said Witten is the best all-around tight end in the NFL. Too often, however, tight ends are judged by receptions.

"He just is a great player," Garrett said. "Anybody that's around him for a minute understands that. He embraces every role. Trust me, he catches a ton of balls in practice -- everyone recognizes how good a player he is. You can't guard him in one-on-ones. What he's done is embraced the role that he's had in this offensive team, which has been more run-oriented than it's been in the past, and he's just done a fantastic job. You hear me say this all the time, but he's the most complete tight end in football. There are a lot of guys who play the tight end position who don't do the things he does. Not only do they not do them, but he just embraces it all and wants to be the best at it. He's a unique player, and it's not lost on us by any means -- we know what a great receiver he is. He demonstrated that again yesterday. We have complete confidence in him."