Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) is tackled after a catch by Washington safety Reed Doughty (37) in the first half at the Georgia Dome on Sunday. Gonzalez became the fifth NFL player in history with at least 15,000 receiving yards. (Reuters)
ATLANTA - At this point, it’s become a routine scene at the Georgia Dome.
Tony Gonzalez makes a catch. Later, his image is on the video board as it’s announced he’s reached some mark or another. Gonzalez acknowledges the cheering crowd.
This time the scenario played out after Gonzalez surpassed 15,000 career receiving yards on Sunday. He reached the milestone with a 12-yard catch in the third quarter of Atlanta’s 27-26 victory over the Redskins.
It’s the kind of thing that’s happened often for Gonzalez during a distinguished career that he will end with his retirement after the season. But he said those moments haven’t become mundane.
“That was special,” Gonzalez said. “Every time I get a catch now, it seems like they are saying it’s another milestone. I guess that’s what happens when you get old and play so long, but I will take it.
“It’s been such a great ride for me. I love competing. I loved playing for the Chiefs. I love playing for the Falcons. The fans have been great.”
Four other players in NFL history have recorded at least 15,000 receiving yards: Jerry Rice (22,895), Terrell Owens (15,934), Randy Moss (15,292) and Isaac Bruce (15,208).
Gonzalez had six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown Sunday. His career totals are 1,313 receptions, 15,008 receiving yards and 110 receiving touchdowns, all records for a tight end.
“His consistency for 17 years in the league is incredibly impressive,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “There’s no shortcut to it. There’s no mystery to it. Tony works as hard as anybody I’ve ever been around, and he’s blessed with a lot of talent as well.”
The catch that put Gonzalez over 15,000 yards was rather ordinary by his standards. But two first-quarter plays showed that, even at 37-years old, Gonzalez still is effective.
Gonzalez caught a pass in the left flat from Ryan and beat two defenders to the edge. He fought his way to the first-down marker and got out of bounds before Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the former Falcon, hit him late.
The penalty moved the ball to the Washington 13-yard line, and the red zone is where Gonzalez shines most.
On first down, Ryan found Gonzalez in the middle of the field with a pass. Gonzalez caught it and made a sudden move to leave behind linebacker London Fletcher as he scooted into the end zone.
It was the kind of move much younger tight ends can’t make, but Gonzalez insists he’s finished.
“It’s exciting, but it does not make me want to come back another year,” Gonzalez said. “I tell you what, I’m enjoying this. Two games left now. It’s fun. I love competing.”