Ezekiel Elliot all but sealed a Cowboys victory with a 60 yard touchdown run to put Dallas up 28-0 in a Week 5 matchup against the Bengals. The play was a traditional under center split zone scheme, but included one wrinkle that made all the difference, Jason Witten’s flat route:
The Cowboys offensive line executed textbook combination blocks in the split zone scheme, with left tackle (#77) Tyron Smith blocking out, left guard (#65) Ronald Leary and center (#72) Travis Frederick combining to block the defensive tackle up to the left outside linebacker, and right guard (#70) Zack Martin combo blocking with right tackle (#68) Doug Free to take care of 3-technique (#97) Geno Atkins and middle linebacker (#58) Rey Maualuga. Tight End (#87) Geoff Swaim blocks across the formation to pick up “EMLOS”, or the end man on the line of scrimmage, (#96) Carlos Dunlap.
However, this leaves one defender unaccounted for: (#55) right outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The Cowboys don’t attempt to block him; instead, they influence him out of the play with Jason Witten running a flat route. Witten’s flat route ends up not only influencing Burfict, but the safety (#43) George Iloka as well. This is the difference between a 3 yard run, a 10 yard run, and a 60 yard run. With the zone steps of Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliot influencing the defenders left, the Cowboys offensive line combo blocks at the point of attack, and the split zone and flat action, a huge alley is created. From there, Elliot must identify the alley, make one cut to get between the combo block on Atkins and Swaim’s out block, and run a wind sprint to the end zone:
You can better see the influence of Witten’s flat route from the broadcast or high angle of the play:
The high angle shows how Witten’s route creates a gaping lane for Elliot to sprint to the end zone, seen fully below:
One important point to note: Witten’s influence and Elliot’s cut, vision, and speed shouldn’t take away from how well the Cowboys offensive line blocked at the point of attack. Their combination blocks and movement allowed the rest of the scheme to work and gave Zeke Elliot a chance to make a play. With that said, the scheme worked to perfection. From an offensive coordinator’s point of view, there is nothing like “blocking” multiple defenders without ever having to lay a hand on them.