As Art Monk approached the NFL's all-time receiving record, the Washington Redskins' bench seemed like NASA's Mission Control during a countdown.
"Every time I came to the sideline, they would say, "You need five more, you need four more,'
" Monk said after his 820th career reception eclipsed by one Steve Largent's previous mark. "They kind of reminded me. I tried not to keep track of it."
Throughout Washington's 34-3 victory over Denver on Monday, the countdown continued as Monk entered the fourth quarter two catches shy of Largent's mark. At that point, it became impossible for even him to ignore the mounting drama.
The record watch hit two when Mark Rypien hit Monk with a 6-yard slant pass across the middle. It reached one on the very next play, when Monk ran a simple hook pattern, shrugged off a tackle and gained 18 yards before being stopped. That tied him with the former Seattle great.
Liftoff came on the next play, the third consecutive pass to Monk, this one a simple 10-yard sideline slant that the 13-year veteran caught before he fell out of bounds.
The entire Redskins team then sprinted across the field, surrounding the NFL's most prolific pass catcher. Moments later, he was hoisted onto a pair of broad shoulders and carted halfway across the field before he struggled free of the limelight he works so hard to avoid.
"I'm just glad it's over," Monk said. "It's a big burden off my shoulders."
Gibbs, mindful of next week's important game with the Philadelphia Eagles, decided to let Monk go for the record in a game that was safely in hand.
"The only three I've ever padded for him was at the end there," Gibbs said. "I wanted it over with."
The moment was special for all involved and seemed to remind some of just what kind of company they're keeping.
"The toughest one all night was the last one to Art," quarterback Mark Rypien said. "I guess now I'll be the guy people talk about when they're sitting in a bar in 2010 wondering who threw that 820th pass to Art Monk."