Thursday, November 3, 2011

Redskins-Bills game review: A failed running game

After studying how the offensive line and John Beck managed to completely tank in the passing game against Buffalo, it's now time to look at how the Redskins got held to a total of 26 rushing yards.

Yes, blockers did lose their share of battles at the point of attack. But a far bigger problem was guys simply not knowing their assignments on a given play and leaving Bills defenders unblocked. To a degree I suppose that is inevitable with a bunch of guys new to the field or (in the case of Will Montgomery) moving to new positions. But it was clear that Redskins blockers regularly had no idea who they were supposed to be blocking.

Let's look at some examples:

First quarter

2-8-WAS 41 (11:34) R.Torain left tackle to WAS 43 for 2 yards (G.Wilson).

I assume this isn't how the play was designed, because it is just ugly.  Chris Chester drives inside the LDT trying to get to the second level. But the DT is working down the line in pursuit of the play so Chester can't get past him. Montgomery comes clean off the line and turns inside to seal in that same DT, ignoring the MLB that Chester was unable to get to. Brown leaves the backside LDE unblocked and pulls (if that's even what you would call this - it really makes no sense) to the inside and up the middle, where he runs into Chester's back. So that leaves three guys blocking one backside DT, while the MLB is not intercepted at the second level and can therefore set the edge against Darrel Young, allowing a safety to beat Torain to the corner and make the play.

1-10-BUF 49 (1:48) R.Torain up the middle to BUF 45 for 4 yards (N.Barnett, D.Edwards).

Locklear, on the play side, goes straight to the second level, ignores (properly, I think) the MLB, and picks off an in-the-box safety. Chester pulls to the outside and blocks the playside OLB. Davis is also crossing the formation form the backfield and it would stand to reason that he should lead through the gap and take on that still-unaccounted for MLB, but instead he tries to go to the outside of Chester, which make no sense because there's no one there to block. That MLB contacts Torain at the line of scrimmage, and only Torain's hard running turns this into an average gain.

Second quarter

1-10-BUF 31 (14:27) R.Torain left guard to BUF 25 for 6 yards (K.Sheppard; G.Wilson).

The last play was an average gain despite a blown blocking assignment, and this one is a pretty good gain despite a blown blocking assignment. Process over results, folks - we can still feel bad about this one. On the backside Chester tries to slip past the DT and go straight to the second level. This is a problem because Brown is on the LDE, Eric Cook and Young account for the MLB and playside OLB, and Gaffney sneaks out of the backfield to cut off the pursuit of a backside safety. In other words, there's no one at the second level who Chester needs to be blocking, and the penetration he allows causes Torain to be hit behind the line of scrimmage. But once again, Torain's ability to run through contact creates a decent gain.

2-4-BUF 25 (13:51) R.Torain left tackle to BUF 26 for -1 yards (D.Edwards; N.Barnett).

This time Torain's hard running can't make up for the failures of his blockers. Montgomery and Locklear are both driven back hard, rendering Young's efforts to lead around the edge futile. Torain cuts back inside but the LDT is able to shed Chester's block at the line of scrimmage and play his inside gap to stuff Torain,

Third quarter

1-10-WAS 20 (10:56) R.Torain right guard to WAS 21 for 1 yard (G.Wilson).

Four - yes, four - linemen go straight to the second level to take on two linebackers and a safety. Montgomery and Locklear initially leave the RDT untouched, but luckily he overpursues and is unable to make the play when Torain cuts back. But remember that safety I mentioned? He is blocked by Terrence Austin (yes, that means the four second-level linemen were even sillier) but not particularly well, and he is able to chase Torain down before he crosses the line of scrimmage.

1-10-WAS 39 (9:24) R.Torain left tackle to WAS 38 for -1 yards (G.Wilson; Sp.Johnson).
PENALTY on WAS, Illegal Formation, 5 yards, enforced at WAS 39 - No Play.

First of all, the penalty by Davis was downright amateurish. He motions to the left side, where Niles Paul is the split end and, by definition, aligned right up on the line of scrimmage (as opposed to a yard off like the flanker on the strong side of a standard formation). This means that no one else but outside of the left tackle except for Paul can be on the line of scrimmage. That is football 101. I admit I never played the game, but at the professional level how do you lose awareness of the basics of how you can line up? Especially when there's only one guy you have to adjust to. Look to your left, Fred - if you see a WR on the line, make sure to stay a yard off. If you don't see a WR on the line, you are required to get yourself up to the line to cover the tackle. Sorry for the rant, but I'm always puzzled by how something as basic as lining up in a legal formation can still be a problem at the world's highest level of football competition.

Anyway, on to the failed (even before it was canceled by the penalty) run. Tell me if this sounds at all familiar: Cook and Montgomery both go to the second level and leave the LDT completely unblocked. Montgomery, to his credit, recovers in time to wheel back into the backfield and cut off that DT before he can get himself around to take down Torain for an even bigger loss. However, the penetration still forces Torain to take an extra cut and naturally Brown and Davis on the play side are confused about who is responsible for the RDE and... wait for it... both go to the second level. This is really unbelievable.


  1. great stuff. I like the new way you're doing these, by theme rather than chronologically through the game. Thanks!

  2. Always loved the breakdown, but this is superb. It seems like with this new format you get a little more in depth with the breakdown, and it being themed really makes the glaring deficenies stand out. The only thing I dont really like about it is all the fast forwarding I need to do to see for myself what your talking about.

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