The Dallas Cowboys had a gameplan going into Monday Night Football against the Washington Redskins. They were going to blitz the interior of the Redskins offensive line and force Kirk Cousins to beat them with his arm. The Cowboys ran a lot of man coverage behind it. From my perspective, tt wouldn't take long seeing the Cowboys plan before I realized I need to start moving my quarterback off the spot to create opportunities; to use misdirection to get the Cowboys defense to flow in one direction and come back the other way. This is why it's so difficult to understand why it took the Redskins until late in the 3rd quarter to even attempt a bootleg. The Redskins ran plenty of stretch plays without success because the Cowboys were keyed in on the run but it took until almost the 4th quarter before Redskins attempted the counter to it. Let's take a look at the tape:
1st and 10
1. Here is the first one with time running out in the 3rd quarter. Redskins are running a weak stretch PA bootleg with a middle alert clear out route, deep crosser and comeback on the outside. The comeback route by Pierre Garcon is the first read with the crosser by DeSean Jackson being second. The deep post by Jamison Crowder is an alert route based on coverage otherwise a clear-out route.
Another reason I don't understand it took so long is the stretch/bootleg game works better against 4-3 teams which the Cowboys run. The defensive end crashes on the run play as he had been doing all game and Trent Williams and Jordan Reed seal him inside, giving Kirk Cousins plenty of room to work with.
When the Cowboys realize it's a play-action bootleg, three defenders look back to find the crosser. Meanwhile, Garcon is tied up at the top of his route.
Cousins can't find anyone so he runs out of bounds. Is this ideal? Not really, but a gain of six yards on a run play seemed like a miracle at this point in the game. It kept them ahead of the chains.
Result: Gain of 6 yards
2nd and 3
#2. Another reason it shouldn't have taken so long is the Cowboys were blitzing the A-gaps all night long. The offensive line was dropping straight back and confusion was leading to missed assignments by more than one offensive lineman. When you run the bootleg, you not only move the QB but you move the OL, and you move the A-gaps. Redskins run a weak stretch PA bootleg with max protection and a 2-man route. Jordan Reed on the corner route and Garcon on the crosser.
Redskins get the 1-on-1 matchups they'd been getting and the DE crashes inside again giving Cousins plenty of room to work.
Both of Cousins' options are wide open. Reed on the corner route is the first read and the deeper route so Cousins takes it.
Cousins delivers an accurate ball and Reed takes it on the run and gets pushed out of bounds.
Result: Gain of 16 yards.
2nd and 7
#3. Redskin are running stretch weak PA bootleg with only one wide receiver on the field. It's Jamison Crowder. Tight End Je'Ron Hamm is going to dart behind the line of scrimmage to give Cousins a dump off option in the right flat.
The DE crashes down again. Don't want to chase Jamison Crowder across the field in any situation but Crowder also gets a natural "rub" because the Cowboys are still running man coverage in the back end. For what it's worth, Hamm was blanketed in the flat.
Crowder catches the pass and gets yards after the catch.
Result: Gain of 20 yards.
Those represent the entire game's use of the concept. The Redskins didn't go to it before and didn't go to it after. 3 plays; 42 yards; 14.0 yards per play. I'm not advocating that it's all they should have used but I'm sure for an offense that was struggling it could have opened things up and created more opportunities to move the ball. This is a similiar story I wrote about the screen game earlier in the year. There is no need to go away from things that work.
In addition, the Redskins also don't need to abandon everything that doesn't work immediately. Like the famous Mike Tyson quote, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Redskins seem to go away from everything as soon as they are hit. Stretch run gets stuffed, they go to the power game. The power game gets stuffed, they go back to stretch, then back to power. When that gets stuffed, they go to shotgun run game. When that gets stuffed, they go back to the stretch game. They go with Alfred Morris and when Matt Jones gets an eight yard run, we never see Morris again. It happens so often and there is no wonder why we've heard Jay Gruden complain about "the flow of the game."
The flow of the game may also be impacted by some of the play-calling duties. From the brief conversations where coaches have addressed it, it appears that Randy Jordan picks the running back to be in the game, Bill Callahan calls the run plays, Sean McVay calls the pass plays and Jay Gruden can plug in any play he wants at anytime with veto power on the others. To recap, Bill Callahan is hand-cuffed by whatever RB Randy Jordan picks, and Sean McVay is hand-cuffed by the running plays that Bill Callahan calls. Sometimes, it's completely off script and we have stretch run plays followed by power play-action plays and vice versa. The group certainly sets up the gameplan together during the week but come game day it seems more like a hodge-podge of play calls than any brilliantly crafted gameplan.
This is why there is no identity. This is why there is no flow. It'll never be as bad as enduring football analysts explain on TV why the Redskins have a Bingo caller calling their plays, but that isn't saying much. The Redskins need more results.
Paul Conner is the Film Analyst at Breaking Burgundy. You can follow him on Twitter @P_ConnerJr