What They (Try to) Do: The Cowboys Running Play of the Day


The Cowboys have several classes of runs they call for their backs.  They have several zone blocking runs, several draws and an entire run of counter technique runs.

I’ve posted a few from the past.  Three we’ve covered, counter, power and F-counter, all run to the strong side, pulling two blockers, the weak-side guard and a second blocker, sometimes the weak-side tackle and sometimes the F-back, to lead the running back to the strong-side edge.  Today, we look at a counter that runs to the weak side.

Stutter left

Every counter play runs from a number of formations.  Stutter runs from a number of spread sets.  On this play Dallas opens in a 12 personnel package, and deploys the two tight ends in a bunch formation on the right:

Before the snap, John Phillips motions back into the backfield, leaving Dallas in a jack right set:

The original bunch set has the Bills defense expecting a pass.  Note their strong side backer is flexed into the right slot with Jason Witten, and they have just six defenders in the box.  With Phillips in the backfield the Cowboys have six blockers for DeMarco Murray.

As with all the other counter calls, Murray takes a false step to the strong side, to draw the linebackers that way and give his blockers better angles.   You can see the blocking designs on the open side.  Left tackle Doug Free is going up-field to take on the middle linebacker.  Left guard Montrae Holland is blocking down on the defensive tackle over him, while center Phil Costa seals out the strong-side DT.

Right guard Kyle Kosier is pulling down the line and will try to trap the defensive end, whom Free has left uncovered.  F-back Phillips will then lead Murray in the lane between Free and Kosier.  If he can stand up the weak-side linebacker, Murray will have an open path into the secondary.

Dallas has run through the entire counter series since Murray has become the starter, as they are some of his better runs.  By running similar plays to the weak and strong side, from a number of formations, they keep the blocking assignments easy for their linemen, while making play recognition a bit harder for their opponents.

Next:  Dallas runs power from a spread look, and closes out the Miami game.