While much of the Dallas Cowboys news cycle will focus on the possible addition of a veteran wide receiver, the Dallas tight ends have paid dividends to the success of both the running and passing game this season. Against the Giants, it was more of the same results. Three tight-end sets that teams were ill-equipped to handle.
As mentioned in this week’s five stars, Ezekiel Elliott has a history of taking it to the New York Giants. With some help from the tight ends, Elliott walks in for his tenth career touchdown against New York.
The Cowboys are playing a single-back jumbo set with three tight ends. Two tight ends to the right of the formation, and one to the left. Before the snap, Dak Prescott motions CeeDee Lamb in between Jake Ferguson and Terence Steele.
Connor McGovern and Tyler Biadasz are double-teaming Dexter Lawrence and notice how McGovern doesn’t even have to get to the second level on former-Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith. Smith had flowed down to the wrong gap at the snap and is unable to retrace back to Elliott in time.
Meanwhile, on the right side, there’s nobody lined up over Zack Martin in the Giants front and it allows him to easily get on the second level to linebacker Micah McFadden. Even better for the Cowboys, Justin Ellis slips and pancakes himself in front of Terence Steele, leaving a huge hole. As a bonus, Lamb and Jake Ferguson seal off Julian Love, and Elliott cuts off the block by Martin for an easy six points.
This second play doesn’t feature the tight ends, but what it does feature is the creativity of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. On the same drive that led to Elliott’s score, Moore calls the perfect play.
The Cowboys are facing a 3rd and 3 nearing midfield. To the left, the Cowboys are in trips set with three receivers to that side. The Giants are matched up to that side with Justin Pinnock as the single high safety and approximately 20 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Terence Steele gets a hand on Leonard Williams before working back to Micah McFadden. Prescott catches Julian Love in no man’s land and that momentary hesitation is enough time to let Dalton Schultz force Oshane Ximines back down the line of scrimmage. This also allows Elliott to get outside leverage on Ximines for the option pitch.
At this point, it’s all green grass for Elliott down the sideline for a 20 yard pick up and Dalton Schultz knocking Love to the turf not once, but twice.
This call by Kellen Moore is simply unfair. The Giants have five down linemen with two lined up over either side of the A gap and two linemen occupying the B gap. New York is loading up to stop the inside run. You may not have noticed this, but the Cowboys are playing 14 personnel- one running back, four tight ends, and zero receivers.
New York is playing very heavily to the right side of the Cowboys’ formation. Before Peyton Hendershot comes in motion, there are five Giants defenders in total to the left of Tyler Biadasz. Once Hendershot goes in motion, Love is trying to communicate to his linebackers, McFadden and Smith, to account for Hendershot, but it’s too late.
One false step and a skip takes Jaylon Smith out of the play. Ditto for McFadden and the Cowboys are jumping in the Salvation Army bucket for the best touchdown celebration of the season.