Sunday, May 15, 2011

X's And O's Breakdown - Kitna Bootleg

Here is another from the continuing series of X's and O's breakdowns. During this series, it is my hope to help us all examine key plays from the 2010 season in hopes of us all learning a little more about what works and what doesn't work in the NFL.

Here is today's subject, from a reader who goes by the handle "Quick CC"-

what about the sweet QB bootleg by Jon Kitna vs Detroit Lions on Nov. 21st? I think it was 3rd and one and kitna managed to sucker the entire Lions defense into thinking it was an obvious RB dive but he faked it and then rolled out to a wide open end run to the end zone for a TD. Not bad mobility by a 39 year old father-time QB.

This is awesome play design because sometimes it is not always the play, it is what you have done to set it up and when you spring the trap. You had it right, except that it was 4th and 1. The Cowboys were trying to ice away a game, and as you may recall - they did not really have a kicker they trusted from this distance in 2010. And Field Goals between 40-55 yards was often considered very dicey, and the Cowboys were not interested in giving the Lions the ball near the 40 yard line with over 3 minutes to play.

So, once you decide you are going to go for it, you then have to select a play that you feel gives you a fine chance to move the chains. As you may or may not remember, Ndamukong Suh had been tossing around Leonard Davis a fair amount this afternoon, and the entire Detroit defensive line was not making any running plays easy on this afternoon. But, this would be strength against strength. "22" personnel (2 RB, 2 TE, 1 WR) against the Lions short yardage defense.

You could certainly argue that if the Cowboys thought they could ram it down the throat of the Lions and move the chains, they likely would have. But, I think Jason Garrett knew that on this day - and for most of 2010 - the Cowboys were not ramming the ball down anyone's throat. If the Cowboys had anything up their sleeve, now was the time to roll it out.

This offense is set up with a ton of "G-Power". This means running the ball with a weakside pulling guard and a fullback leading the tailback into the hole. So, if they are running the ball right, the RG and RT block to their left, and the LG - Kyle Kosier pulls right and joins the FB - Chris Gronkowski to the right edge. This is the bread and butter of the offense. Usually, they hand the ball to the tailback and it is just power against power. In 2009, it worked over and over. In 2010, the success dropped dramatically, but, it was still the foundation play of the running game.

But, it is more than about 1 play (or 2 if you count running it the other direction with Leonard Davis pulling left). It is about a number of variations that can be run from the same look. Many play-action passes that start with trying to show defenses that the Cowboys are running G-Power into the hole again.

A moment about how LBs read plays. Most defenses have LBs (the 2 inside LBs in a 3-4, the Will and the Mic LBs in a 4-3) directly over the guards. They read the guards while also looking past them into the backfield to get their "keys" and to diagnose and react what they think they are seeing. So, to scheme a play that will freeze the LBs, it often is a great concept to run the guards in a misdirection path to mislead the LBs away from where the play is actually going.

So, watch Kyle Kosier pull right. Watch the two LBs who are lined up over the guards react and charge to their left. Also, watch the wide DE on the defensive right (93- Kyle Vanden Bosch) absolutely eat the cheese and run himself right out of the play.

This is a concept that we often see in many plays in football. A player that is unblocked purposely because they want him to over-pursue and run himself out of the play. Watch this play many times, and focus once on just watching Vanden Bosch. His job is to keep contain and as good a player as he is, he was never fooled worse than he was on this play. But, who can blame him. Jon Kitna is not a player with any sort of threatening speed and further, the Cowboys never run a bootleg, right?

This is where imagination can make a difference. It was almost as if the Cowboys were waiting for just the right spot to spring this surprise on an opponent.

Look at the video:

Here are what my thoughts were the week the play happened in the Decoding Garrett series:

What Happened: FInally, the dagger. 4th and 1, out of "22" personnel. Nowhere in the Cowboys playbook is there a QB bootleg, or so thinks Lions DE 93-Kyle Vanden Bosch. Just watch him on this play to see a DE eat the cheese like you have never seen. He crashes in on Barber, and once he does, the flank is unprotected for Kitna to get the easy first down. Now, watch Cowboys LT Doug Free show his absurd speed for a tackle as he races Kitna to the end zone and cleans up the only man who had a chance 26-Delmas. This again shows the design of the Cowboys offense is winning their share of scenarios. I really believe if they can improve their personnel deficiencies, they have the brainpower and strategy for a top offense.

Now, look at some stills of the play. Click on each one to see them enlarged.

Shot #1 - PreSnap from Endzone View of Coaching Tape - notice how wide the contain man is outside of Witten on the left. They will not be outflanked unless they are fooled inside with the play fake.

Shot #2 - Photo a split second after the fake to Barber - The Lions are still unaware that Barber doesn't have the ball, and look how the left side has caved in almost to the hash mark. They have no idea. A great fake and a greater concept.

Shot #3 - Photo when it is too late - Look at the Lions all spotting Kitna with the ball. They are all on the hash mark now, and Kitna is outside of them. He can crawl for a 1st Down, and he ends up running all the way to the endzone.

This play showed that sometimes you can figure out a way to deal with a defense that has done a great job (for at least 1 snap). Keep in mind, the Cowboys did not have an explosive offensive day. They were ahead because of turnovers and a special teams TD from Bryan McCann. This was a game that could have been easily lost. And to convert this 4th Down was quite a highlight that surely put a cherry on the ice cream.

Great job to sell the fake and to make a play.

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