Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Today, let's breakdown the success of the running game from Sunday and allow this offensive line to spend the week gaining confidence. We now see the truth that Joe Avezzano always tried to proclaim when we used to do some television together years ago: "The other guys pay their players, too". His premise was always that we would become so myopic about the Cowboys and their success or failure that we would never ask the question that coaches ask every waking hour of the day: "What about that other team on the field?".
The reason that this should be expressed this week is that in the last two weeks, the offensive line has played the best and the worst in the NFL in Vince Wilfork for New England and what sure appeared to be sub-standard talent and sub-standard effort from the very poor St Louis Rams. When a mediocre talent level is not expressing the same will and desire as their opponent, blowouts happen (as do 300-yard rushing days). We saw the Cowboys seem to give up last October, and there is no question that sort of thing cannot be tolerated. A fired coach or fired players (or both) is generally the only remedy for that.
Nevertheless, the NFL does require that you play the team in front of you. Of, the Cowboys 5 biggest runs on Sunday, 4 of them happened after halftime where the Rams seemed to be quickly heading to the airport to get out of Dodge. But, I want to encourage you to click on the photos of the 91-yard touchdown run from the 1st Quarter so we can take a look at how a run can be perfectly executed.
The Situation: 1st Down and 19 to go. Dallas at their own 9 yard line. Dallas has "regular" or "21" personnel in the game. Murray, Fiammetta, Witten, Bryant, and Austin as the 5 skill players.
Witten is flexed right - away from the Right tackle - where the Rams must consider him a very likely primary read in the event that this is a passing play. The Cowboys love to put their opponents in this pickle, although they prefer it be on 1st and 10 rather than 1st and 19. On 1st and 19, your safeties will often be happy to concede a 5 yard run and assume a offensive play-caller is going to be itchy to get all of those yards back quickly.
This run/pass option has been seen a thousand times if you follow the Cowboys. The famous touchdown in Houston last year is an example of the exact same concept where Tony Romo sees the pass on the outside and opts to throw the ball. I recommend you follow the link to that play for last season and experience the play from the pass option standpoint to really get an appreciation for the complexities of 1 play and why training camp is so important to a team to be able to explore the countless options on 1 single play.
On the run/pass option draw, the blockers are 100% committed to the run option. They cannot concern themselves with whatever Romo decides to do. Their job is to sell that they are pass protecting to their opponents so that their opponent will fall into the trap of edge rushing upfield. This is what the offense wants from the Defensive Ends. Allow them to take the edge and to take themselves out of possible rushing lanes. This is done by having each tackle simply turn their body towards the near sidelines and the defensive ends will generally do the rest. On this particular play, 3 of the 4 Rams DL fall for the bait. The LDE, RDE (James Hall), and RDT (Fred Robbins) require almost no blocking whatsoever - simply for 68-Free, 77-Smith, and 63-Kosier to step aside.
Then, with those 3 cleared out, it becomes quite easy to double team with 67-Costa and 64-Holland on Gary Gibson. Murray is following his FB Tony Fiammetta into the right "A" gap. ("A" gap is more defensive terminology, but let's try to keep this simple for now - "A" Gap is the gap between the center and each guard).
And now, the success of the play - or why this play can either go for 3 yards or 91 yards falls to 4 players besides DeMarco Murray. 82-Jason Witten, 24-Tony Fiammetta, and two Rams, 27-Quintin Mikell, and 20-Darian Stewart. Fiammetta's lead block on 55-James Laurinaitis is very impressive and demonstrates his strength and potential as a Fullback. But, what I am drawn to more and more was the job that Witten does on a far more difficult block. Blocking is all about leverage and position. If I want to rebound a basketball, I need inside position and to keep my defender from getting inside me to the rim. In football, the rim is always moving, because the ball carrier is what I am trying to protect from my defender. Much more difficult, and the officials are making sure I don't hold.
So, for Witten to seal the position on 57-Chris Chamberlain, when Chamberlain has inside position on Witten shows us two things. 1 - that Chamberlain is far more concerned about Witten in a pass route. Until the very end, he appears to be squared up to counter whatever pass route Witten is about to run. He saw the offensive line in a posture to pass protect and quickly deduced that this is a pass play. By the time he figures out that Witten is not running a route, but attempting to seal him off from Murray, it is too late. Chamberlain has fallen into the trap. 2 - Witten is an excellent blocker and understands to use his threat as a receiver to his advantage. It is very subtle, but when you watch the end zone camera, it shows that he is still pretty solid at blocking. And that is why people consider him the best "all-around" tight end of this decade. Others can catch the ball and challenge downfield more, but he does it all.
Meanwhile, here is another lesson in Running Backs versus Safeties in the open field. As a defense, you hope that this doesn't happen very often, because the safety is at a distinct disadvantage to start the play 10-15 yards deep and to have to make a 1-on-1 tackle in the open field. But, wow, Stewart is just a blur as he takes a poor angle and isn't even close on his attack. Mikell is at least in the picture, but Murray's cutback makes Mikell look like a garden gnome. You have to really appreciate Murray's decisive cutbacks. He plants his foot and goes. There is no question once he gets an idea of where he is going next. We saw this all day on Sunday. And Quintin Mikell, a player I thought would help the safety position in Dallas this summer, is proving that against the run, he is not very skilled. There were several other plays on Sunday where he took poor angles and missed tackles. And when a safety misses a tackle, there is usually nobody behind him to clean up his mess.
91 yards where 11 players are working in concert very well. Even Dez Bryant helps with a convoy to the endzone and we get to see Murray and Bryant sprinting next to each-other. This is the type of play that makes the film room happy. Murray did receive much of the credit, but there are plenty of good grades to go around here. Textbook stuff.