On the final Sunday Night Football game of the NFL season, the New York Giants clinched the NFC East with a win over the rival Dallas Cowboys in typical fashion: sacks, sacks and more sacks. Sacks was the name of the game for the Giants, as five different pass rushers took down Tony Romo six times. They achieved this mainly with a dominant (and healthy) four-man rush that played “games” against the Cowboys offensive line.
Games are stunts and twists that are done with down linemen in an effort to confuse pass blockers and get to the quarterback. Examples of these games include E-T stunts, which feature the end slashing to an interior gap first, followed by a defensive tackle from the outside, as well as a T-E stunt that has the defensive tackle slash outside first. The latter was seen on the second sack of the game when defensive end Justin Tuck shot the B gap — the area between the Guard and Tackle — and dropped Romo.
It all started with the pre-snap alignment of the Giants defense, specifically their front four. The Giants’ four down linemen placed their hands on the ground to complete a three-point stance and align in their respective techniques. The two defensive ends of the Giants aligned in five techniques, which is across the outside shoulder of the Cowboys offensive tackles, while the two defensive tackles aligned in three techniques across from the guards.
With the double three techniques, the Giants are able to attack the Cowboys in two ways: simply attack downhill or play their ‘games’ in an effort to get to Romo. The pass rush game used by the Giants on this play was a tackle-end stunt, which can also be known as a T-E or TEX stunt, and it was done with great execution by weak side (top of the image) pass rushers, Justin Tuck (3 -technique) and Osi Umenyiora. (5-technique).
As it’s often taught, the defensive end (E), who is the second stunt man, takes an upfield ‘contain’ rush to the outside while awaiting the stunt outside to the ‘C’ gap (as will be seen on this play) by the first stunting defensive lineman, the defensive tackle (T), before turning it inside through the B gap.
The goal of the stunt by Tuck at the 3-technique is to draw the attention of the guard while running across the face of the tackle into the C gap, consequently occupying two blockers and creating an inside pass rush lane through the B gap for the defensive end to run through.
The pass rush lane opening allows the end to have a free path to the quarterback.
While the T-E game was very effective in the Giants pursuit of Romo, the discipline in the pass rush lanes of the Giants defensive linemen also played a big roll in bottling the Cowboys signal caller up in the pocket.
As the editor of Blitzology explains, there are two key pass rush lanes for a base four man pass rush; “interior” and “contain”. These two rush lane techniques give the defense a balanced rush as they look to box in the quarterback with two outside rushes (“contain”) and press the interior of the pocket with dual inside rushers (“interior”).
The Giants executed these techniques while using the T-E game, creating a quailty and disciplined pass rush.
If the Giants hope to win the Super Bowl, they will have to continue to apply pressure on quarterbacks with their front four, as they did in their Super Bowl run in 2007. With athletes like Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, they have a chance of doing just that.