Washington Redskins Film Analysis: The Anatomy of a Great Running Play
After re-watching the Washington Redskins pound the former #1 rushing defense in the NFL for 153 yards on Sunday, I came away incredibly impressed with the overall effort by every player on the field in the running game. This offensive line is jelling, the wide receivers and tight ends have bought into the dirty work that take this aspect of the game to the next level, and of course, Mike Shanahan has unearthed an absolute gem of a running back that runs equally as intelligently as he does physically and elusively. Nothing displayed the total effort of everyone on the field more than Alfred Morris’ 17-yard run on 2nd & 5 with 4:00 to go in the 1st quarter.
The Redskins originally lined up in the I-formation with Pierre Garcon split-out wide left and Josh Morgan split wide-right. Tampa Bay was aligned in their base 4-3 Under package. After the initial look, Griffin motioned Josh Morgan inside the formation to the right of Griffin. The picture below depicts the final pre-snap look.
The run is initially designed to look like a run to the left. Griffin turns to to this side off the snap and offers a pitch to Alfred Morris, who’s first step is also in this direction. Tampa Bay left defensive end Michael Bennett explodes upfield on the backside of the initial look, clearly anticipating a Robert Griffin III playaction bootleg. Tyler Polumbus did a great job of using Bennett’s over-aggressiveness against him by riding the defensive end completely out of the play. Also on Polumbus’ side of the field is Fred Davis, who does an excellent job of sealing the OLB to his side of the formation. Chris Chester, Will Montgomery, Darrell Young, Kory Lichtensteiger, and Trent Williams fire off to the left side of the formation and seal a massive cutback lane for Alfred Morris, which was ripe for the picking due to Polumbus’ and Davis’ blocks. Chester and Montgomery double down on the 1-technique DT Roy Miller and generate 2-yards of push, which was key to Morris’ initial cut. Below is an overhead shot of the gaping hole Morris had staring in front of him.
As Morris cuts back against the grain, we can see the running lane waiting for him, but we also see Tampa Bay MLB Mason Foster (#59) unblocked and looking to fill the hole, which can be seen below.
At this point, Chris Chester is still on DT Roy Miller in a double-team with Will Montgomery, which was necessary to create the initial cutback lane. If things stayed as they are in the picture above, Mason Foster would get to the hole cleanly and the result of the play would come down to a 1-on-1 with Alfred Morris in a tight space. Now, I fully think that Alfred Morris has shown himself to be capable of winning that 1-on-1 battle, but more often than not, a play like that would end in a simple but useful 4-5 yard run. Luckily for Morris, Chris Chester does a tremendous job of connecting a combination block.
Chester peels off of Roy Miller and immediately locks onto Mason Foster, circled to the right in the picture above. More than just sealing the hole, Chester actually pushes Foster another 1-2 yards wider, opening the hole even larger than it was before. The other circle in the picture is WR Josh Morgan. If you remember the initial pre-snap formation, Morgan was actually lined up in the backfield next to Griffin. As Davis and Polumbus sealed the right side of the hole and the other four members of the offensive line sealed off the left, Morgan acted as Morris’ lead blocker through the cutback lane. Morgan did an excellent job of getting to the second level, locking onto his man, and getting a hold of his block. The player Morgan locked onto? Rookie safety sensation Mark Barron, who’s biggest asset is cleaning up in the running game. Josh Morgan stonewalled him. At this point, Morris could drive a truck through what his teammates have created.
As Morris explodes through the hole, he meets Ronde Barber coming up from his free safety position. This was the easy part for Morris. A simple move on Barber coupled with Morris’ incredibly strong base renders Ronde Barber’s arm-tackle useless. This was barely a blip on Morris’ voyage to more yards down the field.
As Morris beats Barber, we catch a glimpse of the Redskins’ other wide receiver, Pierre Garcon (arrow in the picture above). Garcon continues the theme of full commitment by taking on CB Aqib Talib 15-yards down the field. With Mark Barron blocked by Morgan, Talib blocked by Garcon, and Ronde Barber beaten in the hole, that left open a huge opportunity for a big play by Morris. If Morris was able to turn the corner on Talib, it would become a footrace between him, the pursuit from behind, and the backside CB to the endzone.
Unfortunately, LB Lavonte David was able to get just enough of Alfred Morris from behind in order to trip up the runner for a 17-yard gain. The Redskins were not able to hit a home run here, but I’ll take 17-yards every time.
This single play, more so than any other rush in the game (including Morris’ 34-yard touchdown run), displays the total commitment, the selflessness, and the quality of play from of everyone on the field. Robert Griffin III’s sincerity in acting out a playfake on every run forced Michael Bennett to attack him off the snap. Tyler Polumbus ensured that Bennett was sealed from the hole, while Fred Davis did the same to the backside OLB. Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, and Darrell Young opened a massive cutback lane on the rest of Tampa’s front-4. Chester conducted a textbook combination block by doubling-down on Roy Miller and switching to Mason Foster to keep the hole clean. Josh Morgan locked-onto one of the best young run-stuffing safeties in the league, and Pierre Garcon got onto Aqib Talib 15-yards downfield. And finally, Alfred Morris had the vision and efficiency to hit the holes opened for him on top of making Ronde Barber miss on a 1-on-1 opportunity in space. Every player did their job willingly and exceptionally well. If you were looking for an illustration of how and why this franchise’s running game is taking off, you could certainly do worse than this play.
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