A while back I drew reader(s) attention towards a new series on Football Outsiders where they exhaustively break down individual plays. They covered a Redskins/Titans play that yielded good yardage and a first down... for the Titans. FO's Mike Tanier must have a
vendetta crush on the Redskins, as his newest installment returns to the Redskins/Titans game, this time with the good guys on offense. The setup:
The typical full-house package includes several running plays, some six- or seven-man protection passes, and a few wrinkles on basic pass plays. Today, we are going to install something a little more exotic: an end around from a full-house formation. This play was used by the Redskins against the Titans in Week 6. The play only yielded a minimal gain, so we will examine ways to improve it after we look at what actually happened on the field.
The situation: First-and-10, first quarter, Redskins trailing by three points. The Redskins deploy a three-receiver, single-back, single-tight end personnel package, but they align in a full house formation with Chris Cooley and Antwaan Randle El at "fullback."
The article has helpful diagrams if this isn't making a whole lot of sense. What you'd see is Chris Cooley, Randle-El, and Portis in the backfield, with Moss lined up close to the O-line on the right and Brandon Lloyd wide on the left. The play involves Moss faking a block and taking the ball in a handoff towards the left sideline. It relies on subterfuge, as Randle-El has to sell a play fake to him running to the right. What happens?
Unfortunately, this play fails because the Titans defensive line is able to penetrate and disrupt the play (Figure 2). The trap block on the right side isn't well executed; not only does a defensive tackle reach the backfield in time to disrupt the handoff to Moss, but the left end gets enough penetration to slow Moss at the start of the play. The right end, meanwhile, isn't suckered by the play fake and nearly crashes into Brunell and Moss at the handoff.
The play breaks down entirely because the offensive line doesn't do its job. Their diagram shows no fewer than three defensive linemen reaching the backfield which is a recipe for necessary disaster. Santana Moss manages to save a total loss, as FO notes:
Only Moss' athleticism prevents a disaster. The two defenders force a fumbled exchange, but Moss dribbles the ball, picks it up, and jukes his way to a short gain.
Mike would improve the play with a simpler blocking scheme (we utilize a trap on the right side), though I tend to agree with commenters that the play is fine, so long as the o-line executes. You don't expect any play, no matter how well diagrammed in the X and O factory, to succeed when 75% of the opposing line gets close enough to take the handoff themselves.
The good news is that we have a very competent line, and they uncharacteristically fumbled this play. Regardless, Santana Moss is good enough to turn disaster (TFL, perhaps a sack) into a short gain. Also noteworthy is that our offensive personnel makes some things possible that other teams would not enjoy, notably Randle-El represents an open field threat as well as a semi-competent passer, which keeps defenders guessing. Moss is always dangerous in space. Clinton Portis, besides being an outstanding running back, is also an incredible blocker. To wit, please take a careful look at the video below, around 1:08 in. The pass is to Santana Moss on the right side of the field, CP gets blocked at the line. Off camera he sheds that blocker, hustles his ass up to the ball, puts one block on a would-be tackler that physically flips him over, he gets up, dusts himself off, and finishes off a trailer with another block. Portis plays with as high a motor of anyone I've seen in this National Football League: