It's a numbers game... How to break a 32 yard run...

In my last post, The Anatomy of a Big Play, we looked at some still shots of the Stanford offense in the Fiesta Bowl, on a play action pass. On this post, our good friend, Austonianaggie, requested that I take a look at how Jason Garrett has used 2 TE 2 Back 1 WR personnel in the Cowboys offense.

As we take a look at the usage of a specific personnel group, I think it's a great time to point out something that is very important to remember when you look at the NFL game. That is, in general the idea of different schemes from team to team is largely overstated. The biggest differences from team to team involve verbiage (what the plays/techniques are called), and what is emphasized(man vs zone blocking etc). Most teams are out there running the same things, but what they change is personnel groups, alignment, motions, etc. Essentially they are changing the window dressing to cause the defense to adjust, and then the offense can execute something they have practiced hundreds of times, and remember what I said last time, execution is the key to winning a specific play, for both the offense and the defense.

Now lets look at a big run the Cowboys were able to break in 2011, and see how they were able to spring DeMarco Murray for the big yards.

Let's look at the situation quickly before we look at the actual execution.

2nd Quarter 8:45 on the clock, Dallas leads 6-3.

2nd down & 2.

Jason Garrett brings in his 22 Personnel, and aligns them as shown below.


So here we see the 2 TE unbalanced set, with the strength of the formation to the offenses right. One thing to remember about the game of football, it is all about space, and there are 2 ways to create space, one is by spreading the field and using all 53 yards of width and 40 yards of depth that you can attack on a given play, or by attacking areas in which you have a numerical advantage.

Here we see the defense aligned with 8 guys in the box, (with the FS running in on the left side to make it 9, this is one of those situations Jason Garrett talks about where the defense knows you're running the ball, but you still have to be able to run it.

As we begin to analyze the look pre-snap we first divide the offensive line, and the "box defenders" in half, using the ball as the divider. So on the right side we have 5 box defenders and 4 OLinemen, and on the left we have 2 OLinement and 4 defenders. If you look at these raw numbers, it doesn't look like we have the chance to have a numbers advantage here, but lets take a look at the next shot, so we can see why Romo elected not to audible out of this play.


So here we are just before the handoff is made, and we now see that the run call was the Power Scheme I've mentioned in previous posts. So we have the backside guard, Montrae Holland pulling around to lead Murray through the hole, and FB Tony Fiametta set to kick out on the OLB. With Holland coming from the backside and Fiametta coming from the I formation, we now have 6 blockers, on only 5 defenders to the play side.

Also notice that Tyron Smith has blocked down to double team the DT with RG Kyle Kosier, and notice the push they have achieved.

At this point, its a matter of putting "a hat on a hat" and letting Murray find the space to run. If each blocker can execute their individual block Murray should be off to the races.


Here we see the play side blockers (Bennett, Fiametta, and Holland) taking on the 3 outside defenders who could threaten the play. Also, Tyron Smith has come off of the double team with Kosier, and has tracked up to the 2nd level to block the Weakside LB. These blocks are circled in yellow to point out how clean the front side blocks look.

As we look at the back side it's not nearly as clean. Which is the case on the back side many times. Here, Kosier has taken his man to the ground, Costa has been able to turn his man away from the play and anchor, and Free has left the DE to get his hands on the blitzing FS. This is pretty close to textbook for the Power run game.

Also notice how Murry takes a straight path directly to his aiming point (Kosiers right shoulder). He does a great job here of pressing the hole, and letting the blockers work.


Now Murray is in the hole, all the blocks are still strong, and it's up to Murray to use his vision and acceleration to get through the hole and make this a big play. When you run the ball there will always be 2 defenders who aren't blocked. As you can see, Romo isn't blocking anyone, and obviously Murray isn't blocking anyone. This scheme is designed to leave the unblocked players as far from the ball carrier as possible, here it is the backside DE and the SS who is playing the Deep middle. As soon as Murray breaks the hole, it becomes his job to account for that safety and make him miss the tackle.


Here we see Murray after his cut, and between the last picture and this one he has covered 11 yards north and south. Also notice the red dot, is the location of the safety in the prior shot, and currently he is in the process of missing the tackle. This is a great example of Murray's acceleration, because he was able to get up to speed quickly, he beat the safety to the spot and was able to get loose.

Eventually he was brought down at the 30 yard line, but the execution by the blockers, as well as the vision and acceleration by Murray provided an explosive play in the run game. There was no deception here, this was an example of lining up and winning your matchups across the board.

That same offensive line that has been highly criticized on this board and many like it, dominated a pretty good defense on this play, and paved the way for Murray to rush for 130+ yards in this game, and allowed the team to average 5.2 yds/carry on runs up the middle this year, which happens to be the best in the NFL.

One interesting note on this play, the only WR on the field, was Kevin Ogletree.

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