Someone had to win the game between Washington and the New York Giants, and Mark Schofield was hoping it would not be his white whale, Kirk Cousins to DeSean Jackson. But it was, so how you like that, Mr. Quarterback Writer?
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin
There is another certainty in life, at least when it comes to the NFL ‒someone will win the division and host a playoff game, whether they deserve to or not. The NFC East’s teams with not losing records faced off when Washington hosted the New York Giants, with the visiting Giants missing out on a chance to sweep the season series and take a commanding lead in the division title race. The home team roared out to an early 17-0 lead and held on for the victory, thanks in part to this brilliantly-executed play action pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Following a Giants’ punt, Washington takes over possession of the football on their own 37-yard line. Reserve tackle Tom Compton (#68) reports as an eligible receiver, and the offense lines up with Cousins under center. Alfred Morris (#46) is the single running back in the backfield, and Compton lines up in a wing alignment to the right with Jackson on the outside. To the left side of the formation, tight end Jordan Reed (#86) sets in his two-point stance just outside left tackle Trent Williams (#71) with Pierre Garcon (#88) split out wide:
The Giants have their base 4-3 defense on the field, with Jason Pierre-Paul (#90) in a two-point stance outside the LT. Strongside linebacker Devon Kennard (#59) drops down onto the line of scrimmage as well, just outside Compton’s right shoulder. Neither safety is playing deep, with free safety Landon Collins (#21) and Brandon Meriweather (#22) showing a two-high look before the snap:
The Giants roll coverage to Cover 1, with Collins dropping down and Meriweather playing the deep single-high safety. Washington uses a play action design here, working off of a split-zone concept. At the snap Cousins opens to his left and fakes an outside zone run to Morris with the RB aiming for the left edge. The offensive line, including Compton from the wing, all block to the left in this zone design, while Reed cuts across to the backside edge where Kennard is waiting. After the fake, however, Cousins uses a half-roll back to the right side, where his TE is ready to keep a clean pocket:
Washington uses the Yankee concept here, a max protection, two-receiver route that they like to use with this pair of receivers – as indicated by the ITP Glossary entry. Garcon runs a deep over route, while Jackson runs a deep post. As the play develops all three linebackers flow to the run fake, including Kennard on the backside. While the second-level defenders try and retreat, bad things are happening in the secondary for the Giants. Garcon gets inside of Prince Amukamara (#20) at the snap and has a step on the CB on his deep over route. But on the other side, Jackson gets inside leverage on Jayron Hosley (#28) and is able to beat the attempted jam. As the WR is getting inside of the CB, the safety to that side of the field, Merriweather, is staring into the backfield and actually takes a step or two down toward the line of scrimmage:
When the safety starts to gain depth, Jackson sets up his inside break by using a dino stem, and bending the route to the outside. This gets Merriweather to widen in response, and creates an alley for Jackson to break back to the inside and get underneath the safety:
Merriweather attempts the baseball turn to try and stay in position, but it is too late. The ball is coming out and Jackson’s speed creates separation:
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Cousins delivers a beautiful throw coming out of the play action fake, Jackson runs under the pass at the 14-yard line and cruises into the end zone with the score. From this angle, we can see how the safety gets caught peeking in the backfield, and then gets twisted by the great post route by Jackson.
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The Giants would close the gap late, but Washington held on for the victory and pulled into a first-place tie with New York. Someone has to win this division, given their remaining schedule, Jay Gruden’s team might have the inside track to the NFC East title.
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.