The Cowboys’ performance on offense against the Eagles may have been their best effort yet, as we saw many of the things we were promised from the new-look Kellen Moore offense. One of the more overlooked aspects about Moore, though, was his skill as a situational play-caller, and his ability to stack certain plays on top of each other, building each play off the previous ones.
We saw a perfect example of just that Sunday night, and it resulted in perhaps the easiest touchdown pass in NFL history, with Blake Jarwin on the receiving end of it. Take a look:
Seeing as how it’s first and goal at the one-yard line, neither team’s formation is surprising. Dallas lines up with three tight ends and two running backs, with fullback Jamize Olawale in front of Ezekiel Elliott. Philadelphia puts seven players on the line of scrimmage and has two linebackers and two safeties further back in the endzone.
Now, here’s where Moore’s situational play-calling comes into play. At this point in the game, Dallas has already shown this same basic formation three times, all when they had one yard to go. The first time it was a QB sneak that Dak Prescott took for eight yards after unexpectedly bouncing off tacklers. The second was a handoff to Zeke, which capitalized on the defense preparing for another sneak. And the third time was a sneak that the Eagles stuffed on third down (before Dallas picked up the conversion on fourth down).
So now Dallas shows the same formation for the fourth time, and the Eagles are anticipating either a sneak or a run for Zeke, just based on the tendencies Dallas had shown earlier. Based on what the defense ends up doing - an overload blitz to the left side of the play - they were betting on the run to Zeke.
The critical part of this play, though, is the pre-snap motion. Witten starts out on the right end of the play, crouched down next to Jarwin, who’s in a three-point stance. At this point, the Eagles look to be overloading that side of the play, but when Witten motions over to the left side, where Dalton Schultz is also in a three-point stance, safety Rodney McLeod follows him across the formation. leaving no defender on the right side that isn’t on the line of scrimmage. In other words, the window dressing is complete.
Dak snaps the ball and the offensive line immediately starts sliding left, as if they’re blocking for the run to Zeke. The two offset linebackers, TJ Edwards and Nathan Gerry, come on the blitz and McLeod gets engaged with Witten while the other safety, Malcolm Jenkins, also comes on a blitz. The defensive line follows the slide left, aided by Prescott’s fake handoff to Elliott, and then Dak takes the ball out and loops around on a bootleg.
At this point, there’s three defenders crashing the back side of the line of scrimmage: reserve defensive end Daeshon Hall, defensive end Brandon Graham, and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. In theory, at least one of those three is supposed to seal off the edge in case of the bootleg, but since the Eagles are trying to counter the Cowboys’ tendencies, they bite hard on the run. By the time they realize Dak still has the ball, he’s already gotten around them easily.
Finally, the most important part of the play is Jarwin. He comes off the snap and starts acting like he’s trying to execute a reach block against Hall. As soon as the defensive end slices past him, though, Jarwin flips his hips and releases into the flat. Not a single defender is near him or even aware that he’s standing in the endzone as a receiver. Dak tosses the ball and hits his tight end right in the hands for the easiest touchdown either player will ever be involved in.
This is yet another example of Moore taking a fairly simple concept - in this instance, a play-action bootleg on the goal line - and doing a little bit of window dressing to build off of what the Cowboys had previously done in the game, and it works to perfection.