Cowboys vs. Indians First Half Offense

I'll be honest, I've always been an offensively-minded observer. It's not about following the ball for me, but more about what happens to move that ball from point A to point B. Why do we credit our offense for big passing plays on one down and then yell at our defense for giving up a big play on another? Since taking over the reins as Head Coach, JG's play calling has been one of the most fun to watch around the league. That's why this session I want to talk about his first half coaching against the Indians. 

There's a fine line between a good offensive play and a horrible defensive play. Good offenses can force mismatches against even the best defenses and therefore score points. The Redskins are not considered the pinnacle of defensive production by any means, they are 32nd with 397.6 Yards/Game, and have given up 24.5 points/game for 10th in the league. Wanna guess who's number 2 in that ranking? That doesn't mean that our offensive production was not spectacular (outside of the red zone) for the first half. That's why I am going to introduce to you the new and improved Dallas Cowboys Razorback formation (Warning: May contain levels of awesomeness not fit for human eyes. Do not use against normal opponents or in situations where you need offensive production to win games. This formation is not useful against the Eagles or Giants, they are too tough for this sort of wrinkle. Use only against division rivals with whom you are competing for dead last in the division. Ask your GM before switching HCs.)

Seriously though, this happens to be one of my favorite plays of the entire season for the Dallas Cowboys.


Ah, the Wildcat. Bet you guys haven't seen this in a while. We'll start with the offensive formation. Choice is in the Shotgun behind the line to take the snap. Felix Jones is in the WR Z position 3 yards back from the Line of Scrimmage on the bottom of the Screen. Miles Austin is in the Y, or the slot receiver position near the top of the screen, and Jon Kitna is in the X receiver position 2 yards from the line of scrimmage at the top of the screen. Martellus Bennettand Jason Witten are to the right and left of the line of scrimmage respectively and will be responsible for blocking duties only on this play. So, there are currently 7 blockers on the LOS. The Redskins have 5 guys on the line, in a 3-4 set, with 2 Cornerbacks and 3 Middle Linebackers playing 3 yards back from the LOS, and there is one safety hovering at around the 45 yard line. The Redskins are obviously playing run defense as most wildcat is running.


Presnap, Felix Jones turns to his left and begins running towards Choice. This play looks like it is turning into a zone-read, that is there are two possible runners on the play. Choice is responsible for dissecting the play. The way a normal zone-read is run Tashard Choice should be looking at number 97, Lorenzo Alexander. If he stays where he is, or at home, then he hands the ball off to Jones to run it. If Alexander rushes at Jones, Choice keeps it and runs to the right of the field.



In this play Alexander stays at home and so Choice hands the ball off to Jones. Further, there are 4 linebackers on the right side of the field so it would seem a bad choice to go that way regardless. However there seems to be something wrong with this play. Jon Kitna is beginning to run towards the center of the field, Miles Austin is running past all of the defenders, and the Offensive Line + 2 TEs is pass blocking, not run blocking.Choice steps up right next to Bennett to participate in the blocking.  The Redskins haven't keyed in on this fact and so they are still in a Run Defense mode. That will quickly change.



While running towards the left side of the field Felix Jones tosses the ball to Jon Kitna. At this moment FJ begins to run a wheel route first slanting towards the sideline and then running a go towards the end zone. Miles Austin runs a slant route across the middle of the screen. There are now 8 blockers on the line, two receivers and 1 passer.



Austin's slant route is important to this play. At this moment there are 5 persons in run defense on the LOS. Kevin Barnes is responsible for coverage on Austin, with presumably a safety on top to prevent the deep route. Carlos Rogers, on the right, is looking towards Kitna but speeding towards Austin to prevent the deep play. This means that the only 2 DBs on the field are covering the WR, DeAngelo Halland a Linebacker are completely out of the play on the left side. There are 5 guys rushing the passer. There is a 10th player on the field, but he is off the left side of the screen. That leaves Brian Orakpo on man coverage with Felix Jones, very similar to an earlier mismatch I highlighted.



Austin's slant to the middle of the field took Rogers off of the sideline route for just long enough that by the time he identified the Kitna throw to Jones it was too late for him to come make the stop. Orakpo is fast but he is simply not fast enough to prevent the pass to Jones. As a result Jones gets the 30 yard pass and the momentum in the passing game.


Jason Witten has to be one of my favorite Cowboys. Professional, Good Sportsmanship, and Elite Talent. In honor of his great skill, I'll now detail his 600th career catch.



Presnap offense: It's 3rd and 9, Jon Kitna is in the Shotgun, Choice is to the right of him and Jason Witten is on his let side about a yard back. On the top of the screen Hurd is playing the X receiver position while on the bottom Manny Johnson is playing the Z and Austin is playing the Y slightly above him. 



Jason Witten is motioned to the right side of the screen, ot the right of Manny Johnson. On defense, from top to bottom, Andre Carter, Jeremy Jarmon, Chris Wilson and Brian Orakpo play the LOS. London Fletcher plays right behind ths group. Philip Buchanon is covering Hurd on top. Kevin Barnes play safety. Behind Barnes Kareem Moore plays deep safety. Carlos Rogers plays 5 yards off of Austin and DeAngelo Hall is on the right of the screen. 



With the motion Rogers is now on Johnson and Hall is on Witten. Washington employs a five man rush with everyone on the DL, besides Orakpo who switches into Zone coverage to bump Miles Austin, and Barnes who blitzes from the safety position. At the top of the screen Sam Hurd employs a basic Go route. Miles Austin is going to employ a double move on Brian Orakpo and Manny Johnson is going to get past Rogers and slant into the endzone. Witten is going to run a hitch route. Witten is the designed read on the play.



Jason Witten catches the ball against an overly aggressive Hall, with no safety support. Aggravatingly, it's about 4 yards behind the LOS. However, because of Hall's aggressiveness Jason Witten easily breaks off coverage and rushes for the endzone. Manny Johnson is now at the threshold of the endzone and running a slant towards where Witten will be entering.



Manny Johnson makes the block on Brian Orakpo allowing Jason Witten easy access for the TD and the completion of his 600th catch.

Were these examples of bad defense or good offense? The first play was simply an example of superior play calling and better execution. Washington employed a formation to stop the run and got burned for it. It wasn't bad defense. The second play was a combination of bad defense and a superior skill player. DeAngelo Hall shouldn't have gone on tight coverage. Witten was still 4 yards behind the 1st down marker and a tackle would've sent the FG kicker out. Regardless Jason Witten's skill-set allows him to easily shake off the would be tackler, and Manny Johnson makes  very good down-field block to seal the TD for the Cowboys.

So to end, congratulations to Jason Witten on 600+ catches, and here's to the greatest TE of all time.

On a side note I just wanted to say thank you for the words of encouragement and recommendations. It means a lot to me. Feel free to leave any feedback on the format of the posts; any advice would be helpful.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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