NFL Week 4 Review: Kirk Cousins Pulled One Out

Washington‘s quarterback situation has been of particular interest to Mark Schofield over the past several seasons. Because Kirk Cousins pulled one out, the ITP Editors forced him to write about it.

Ahab had Moby Dick. David had Goliath.  

I have Kirk Cousins.

A little over a year ago, a fledgling football site was in its first days, and one of its writers made the argument that Kirk Cousins could perform well for Washington in the place of an injured Robert Griffin III. Then, Cousins faltered, and said writer was forced to dine on some tasty, salty crow. But with a new season comes opportunity for redemption. So, we meet again Mr. Cousins.

Key Play One

Trailing by four with just more than 6 minutes remaining at FedExField, Washington took over possession of the ball on its own 10-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Cousins lined up in the pistol formation with 11 offensive personnel on the field, using trips to the right with the tight end on the line of scrimmage. The Philadelphia Eagles lined up with their 4-2-5 nickel package in the game, showing Cover 2 in the secondary:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay1Still1The offense begins this play running Alfred Morris (#48) to the right on the outside zone play:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay1Still2

Just prior to the snap, linebacker DeMeco Ryans (#59) flashes an A Gap blitz between center Kory Lichtensteiger (#78) and left guard Spencer Long (#61). As the play begins, the linebacker tries to shoot this gap, blasting the LG into the backfield and onto the turf. Thankfully for the offense, Morris is reading this play to the outside, and he picks up two solid blocks on the edge:

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Right tackle Morgan Moses (#96) is able to control defensive tackle Bennie Logan (#96), who lines up across from the RT. Tight end Derek Carrier (#89) gets a good block on the second level, working against linebacker Jordan Hicks (#58). Morris cuts to the outside of these two blocks, and then vertically into the secondary with a 16-yard gain.

Key Play Two

Five plays later, Washington faces a 1st and 10 on its own 42-yard line, with 3:24 remaining in the game. On this play, Cousins lines up under center with 12 offensive personnel on the field. The offense has three receivers on the left, with wide receiver Jamison Crowder (#80) in a tight alignment while TEs Anthony McCoy (#85) and Carrier set up in a tight wing look on the edge. Philadelphia brings in its base 3-4 defense, and shows Cover 3 in the secondary:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay2Still1

The offense sends Morris on another outside zone run, and to appreciate the work here we need to say a few words about this scheme and the running back’s reads. As this play begins the offensive line all fire out in unison to the left, while Morris takes the handoff aiming for the left side. But he will read the flow of the blocking, and choose between three options: bang, bounce and bend. Should the blocking open up a crease on the interior left side, between the tackle and guard, that is his bang read, and he will cut inside. Should this play collapse on the interior, he can bounce this to the outside. But if the defense flows well on this play, he can spot a cutback lane to the right, to bend this back in that direction: NFLReview4WashingtonPlay2Still3

Notice that safety Walter Thurmond (#26) has walked up to the edge of the defense, outside of Carrier. When this play begins he angles directly into the backfield, taking away the bounce read to the outside. In addition, defensive end Fletcher Cox (#91) and outside linebacker Brandon Graham (#55) line up next to each other on the line of scrimmage, across from the left tackle and TE. They take away the “bang” from Morris.

But he still has his bend read:

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The RB takes the handoff flowing to the left, but seeing the play develop, he sticks his left foot into the turf and makes a hard cut back on his bend read, angling against the grain of the play. From there, he runs away from OLB Connor Barwin (#98). The linebacker eventually chases him down, but not until Morris has picked up 13 yards and a first down.

Key Play Three

Five plays later, the offense faces a crucial 3rd and 6 on the Philadelphia 30-yard line, with 1:18 remaining in the game. Washington puts Cousins in the shotgun with an 11 package on the field, with Crowder and Pierre Garcon (#88) in a stack-slot on the left, and TE Jordan Reed (#86) in the slot on the right with WR Ryan Grant (#14) to the outside:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay3Still1

The Eagles now use their 3-2-6 dime package, showing Cover 2 in the secondary with man-to-man underneath.

The offense looks to throw here:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay3Still2

On the left side of the field, Crowder runs a pivot route while Garcon runs a deeper dig route. On the right side, Grant releases vertically while Reed and running back Chris Thomas (#25) both run out routes, with the TE running a deeper pattern.

But at the snap, the defense rolls this into Cover 1 Robber, dropping Thurmond down into the box:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay3Still3

Cousins takes the snap and initially looks to the right, before coming back weakside to Garcon on the dig route:

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The QB just manages to squeeze this throw in between the crashing Thurmond and cornerback E.J. Biggers (#38) who was responsible for Garcon in man coverage. From the end zone camera, you can see how Cousins read his progressions: initially opening up to the right and checking the vertical route to the outside ‒ perhaps trying to hold the safeties ‒ before moving to the weakside, then checking Crowder on the pivot, finally finding Garcon on the dig route:

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The big third-down conversion gives Washington the football inside the red zone, but the clock is ticking.

Key Play Four

Two plays later, the offense faces a 2nd and 10 on the Philadephia 16-yard line. The offense comes out with 11 offensive personnel on the field, but empties the backfield and puts the quarterback in the shotgun. RB Thomas splits wide to the left while Carrier lines up in the slot. To the right Washington has trips, with Crowder on the inside, Grant in the middle and Garcon to the outside:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay4Still1

The Eagles use their 3-3-5 defensive package on this snap, and use Red 2 coverage in the secondary:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay4Still2

Washington again looks to throw:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay4Still3

Thomas runs a vertical route on the left along the sideline, while Carrier runs a deep out. On the trips side, Crowder releases vertically before breaking off on a post pattern, while Grant runs a deep in cut, with Garcon dragging underneath. Cousins initially looks to his left:

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But after pump-faking to Thomas on the vertical route, the quarterback wheels back to the strong-side of the field, looking for Crowder before checking the ball down underneath to Garcon. Cousins likely opened weakside and faked the throw to Thomas to try and move the weakside safety: Knowing the coverage, the QB is trying to widen the two deep safeties and then hit Crowder on the post route:

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Notice how after the fake, Cousins immediately looks deep middle. If he can spread the safeties, he can hit Crowder over the middle. But the weakside safety stays home. Hicks dropping into that intermediate middle zone in this coverage takes away any chance for the post route. So Cousins brings the ball down, and finds his shallow route underneath. Since Hicks gained depth in response to the post route, Garcon is open in the middle of the field.

Key Play Five

Two plays later, Washington finishes off the drive:

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Cousins has Thomas and Garcon in a slot to the left, and the QB is able to squeeze the football into another tight throwing window to the WR on a quick out route at the goal line. What is interesting about this play is the defense used by the Eagles. Philadelphia has its 3-3-5 defense in the game, but before the snap the Eagles put all six defenders on the line of scrimmage showing Cover 0, with the potential blitz:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay5Still1

When the play begins, the back five defenders all play man, but they drop three defenders off the line of scrimmage late, to try and take away shallow crossing routes:NFLReview4WashingtonPlay5Still3

From this angle, you can see how these defenders react to the play:

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But with Garcon running an out route, he’s moving away from them. The throw is on target and it is a touchdown. Cousins pulled one out, and Washington earns a big division win.

And this writer gets to chase his white whale for at least one more week.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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