Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers came from behind to defeat the San Francisco 49ers, 33-30, in a surprisingly exciting game that ended up being decided by a field goal as time expired. But once again, all anyone seems to be talking about is ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jason Witten.
After two relatively solid weeks in the booth, Witten once again struggled throughout the entire broadcast, complaining at one point the 49ers had "kicked themselves in the foot" and that Rodgers pulled "another rabbit out of his head."
"Witt was going a little more Emmitt than Romo with that one," New York Post sports media writer Andrew Marchand joked on Twitter.
To his credit, Witten took the flub in stride following the game.
It's important to point out that like his former Dallas Cowboys teammate Tony Romo, Witten was plucked directly from the NFL and placed in a prominent broadcast role — in this case, ESPN's most highly watched show — with no previous television experience. Regardless of his up-and-down performances, ESPN is invested in Witten long-term, and expects him to improve as the season goes on.
One moment last night that showed where Witten could use some improvement was at the beginning of the second half: He seemed confused when the 49ers declined a holding penalty on the Packers during the kickoff. Because the foul was called before the return, accepting the penalty would have meant the 49ers would have had to re-kick, hence the reason they declined.
But on the broadcast, neither Witten nor play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore explained that to viewers, causing many to flood Twitter looking for answers.
Here's what sports media pundits and writers, including former FOX NFL Sunday personality Frank Caliendo, had to say in response to Witten's performance last night.
It's not the first bump in the road during Witten's rookie season in the booth. During the Week 3 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he stole the spotlight by claiming that the NFL had become too "left wing" when it comes to protecting quarterbacks.
"I knew they were going to make it about the health and safety and protecting these quarterbacks. It just seems like we went a little bit to the left wing on that with our approach on trying to protect it," Witten said. "Not only are the players frustrated, but the coaches. They don't know how to coach this. That's when you have a challenge with this rule."
ESPN quickly issued a statement making it clear Witten's comments "had nothing to do with politics," and the former tight end explained during an interview with the Washington Post that he simply misspoke.
"I was saying the pendulum was moving to the left and I guess the nerves of being a rookie — I mean trust me I would never get into rushing the passer and politics," Witten said. "The league just got a little out of whack when they were making the rule. They're going to tighten it back up and be able to adjust it. It wasn't left wing, obviously. It was an honest mistake."