Each week Inside The Pylon takes a look at some of the standout offensive plays from around the NFL in Reel Film Recap. In this edition Mark Schofield looks at the Pittsburgh Steelers dipping back into the well against the Atlanta Falcons, and the key to a huge Dallas Cowboys road win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Steelers Roll On… Again
In two straight matchups the Pittsburgh Steelers ground game paved their way to victory, with Todd Haley’s offense relying upon the power lead counter for a big touchdown in Week 14 against the Bengals, and on Sunday in Atlanta they proving the old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
On 1st and 10 at the Falcons 14-yard line, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lines up under center in a heavy offensive formation utilizing 22 personnel. Atlanta has a run-stopping formation on the field with five defenders on the line to counter the run look from Pittsburgh. The Steelers again run the lead counter to the left edge, with right guard David DeCastro (#66) and H-back Will Johnson (#46) pulling in front of running back Le’Veon Bell:
Bell sets the play in motion with his counter steps, which give his blockers time to get in front and form the edge. DeCastro’s execution on the play is flawless. He attacks the edge of the defense and erases safety Kemal Ishmael (#36):
With the guard sealing off Atlanta’s D-line pursuit, Johnson escorts Bell to the end zone:
The 27-20 victory allows the Steelers to keep pace with the Bengals and Ravens in the tight AFC North. With the Pittsburgh running game performing at such a high level down the stretch, the Steelers are in solid position to win their final two games and secure a playoff spot.
Romo and Bryant Beat the Coverage Deep
Sunday night’s tilt between NFC East foes Dallas and Philadelphia served as Week 15’s marquee matchup. Both teams entered the contest with 9-4 records but the Eagles’ Thanksgiving Day victory had them atop the standings on the basis of a tie breaker. Facing a must-win scenario, Tony Romo and company pulled out a December road victory Sunday night, thanks in large part to their big, talented wide receiver Dez Bryant.
The WR caught three touchdowns in Philadelphia, including this 25-yarder on a crucial 3rd-and-7 early in the fourth quarter. At the time, the Eagles trailed by only four points and with a stop on third down Philadelphia could force a field goal try. Romo lines up in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field. The Cowboys have a trips formation to the left with Bryant split wide to the right. Philadelphia counters with dime personnel while showing Cover 1 in the secondary and blitz posture up front:
The cornerbacks (including the slot corner) are in press alignment, with the free safety more than 15 yards from the line of scrimmage – not even visible on the above still. The Eagles have all but one defender within 5 yards of the football. At the snap of the football the cornerbacks/slot corner utilize “press-bail” technique:
Rather than jam their receiver on the line, these defenders wait to read the WR and then decide whether to jam or bail. On the outside Bryant utilizes a stutter-step move followed by a vertical release, and cornerback Bradley Fletcher (#24) opens his hips towards the sideline:
Now Fletcher has a decision to make. He can try to jam the WR or simply “bail” and run with him, trying to stay on his inside hip. The corner attempts a jam:
He gets some contact on Bryant –and a good deal of his face mask – but the big WR is too strong ‒ and too fast:
The receiver has the strength to fight through the jam and the speed to gain instant separation. Romo drops the throw in perfectly before the free safety can arrive:
The 38-27 victory moved Dallas into the top spot in the NFC East. With games remaining against Indianapolis and at Washington, the Cowboys still have work to do. But the win over the Eagles gives them a tiny bit of breathing room in the playoff push. For Philadelphia, they need to win out knowing that the NFC South Champion, likely with a losing record, gets into the playoffs over a team that finishes 11-5 but fails to win their division.
All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.