The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Texans' Tyrann Mathieu accuses ESPN’s Jason Witten of telling ‘millions of people a lie’


Houston Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu is taking the team’s “defense with attitude” mantra to the Internet.

After Houston’s 34-17 win on Monday night over Tennessee, Mathieu had some choice words for ex-Cowboys great and ESPN color analyst Jason Witten.

After Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota connected with tight end Jonnu Smith for a 61-yard touchdown in the first quarter, Witten went to his telestrator and singled out Mathieu. He said it looked like the Houston safety was double-covering wide receiver Corey Davis on the outside, leaving Smith open when the tight end feigned blocking at the line of scrimmage and then went out for a pass.

Here’s the replay. Mathieu is No. 32 in blue, the guy that jumps on Smith as he crosses the goal line:

“Looks like it was a busted coverage,” Witten said. “Mariota sees it, and he capitalizes.”

Mathieu didn’t take kindly to that remark.

“Lmao. This man Jason Witten said I bust a coverage,” he tweeted Tuesday morning. “Why tell millions of people a lie? Smh.”

The message was subsequently deleted, but Mathieu stood by the notion that it wasn’t his fault Smith had such a wide open path to the end zone. He tweeted later it was good play calling from Tennessee that caught Houston out of position.

That’s not the only flak Witten caught after his latest broadcast.

Among other remarks seized on by critics, he claimed he’d played against Houston defensive ends J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney “a lot” in his 15-year career, when in fact Witten only faced Watt once, and never lined up opposite Clowney in the regular season.

All that, plus play-by-play man Joe Tessitore’s cringeworthy review of halftime entertainer Bad Bunny, made for another rough week in a season full of them for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” crew.

Witten has recently acknowledged some of his on-air missteps, and the inevitable comparison to former teammate Tony Romo, who has turned into one of CBS’s top analysts.

“I understood when I took this job it was going to be hard, it was going to be a transition,” Witten said in a conference call with reporters earlier in the month. “Certainly with Tony and the success that he had, I really try not to live in that world and fully embrace it and continue to get better and evaluate it.

"But I think with the flubs, I certainly do not deny it, I don’t try to hide it and as you said, that’s really all you can do in those moments is self-deprecate and move forward. Over time I hope to improve and get better at it.”

Read more from The Post:

The Jaguars have finally seen enough of Blake Bortles. (Sorry, @Jaguars)

With Kirk Cousins outplaying Aaron Rodgers, the Packers — and maybe Mike McCarthy — are just about done

Racist post about Florida State Coach Willie Taggart prompts outrage, a firing and an investigation