September 22, 2015
Sean Lee pointed to my monitor and said, "Turn up the volume here." So I did, as Sam Bradford barked out his cadence. "Ready, down, hut hut hut hut," Bradford called out on my computer screen, when Lee exclaimed "NOW!" at the exact moment the Eagles snapped the football. All four of the Cowboys' defensive linemen seemed to know when the snap was coming too, as they charged off the line of scrimmage, beating the blocks of the Eagles' offensive linemen for a loss of three yards.
"We not only knew which of the Eagles' four plays they were going to run," explained Lee. "We knew when they were going to snap the ball. Most teams will snap it after 10-12 'hut hut hut's,' and some teams that let the play clock run all the way down will snap it after 30-40 'hut hut hut's,' but because the Eagles run that fast-paced offense, we know it's going to be around four."
According to Tim McManus of PhillyMag, Eagles WR Josh Huff said that the Cowboys were calling out the Eagles' plays from their sidelines.
Josh Huff said that when he lined up near Dallas sideline, there were times when he heard Cowboys calling out Eagles plays pre-snap.— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) September 22, 2015
Lee acknowledged that the Eagles' playbook was not very difficult to disseminate, and they typically knew what was coming. In fact, Lee was gracious enough to sit down with me to break down the Eagles' playbook in its entirety. It only took about two minutes for him to explain each play and break down how the Cowboys defended it.
"The first thing we learned from watching tape of the Eagles against the Falcons was that their quarterback just isn't going to throw the ball more than 15 yards down the field," explained Lee. "For example, watch this play against Atlanta. They love running those short underneath crossing routes, which are good for five yards when you complete them, but all you have to do is rally to the receiver once they make the catch."
"I mean, look at their safety as this play develops," said Lee. (We circled the safety Lee pointed to on our screen).
"He's not even looking at the receiver running a deep route right past him at the bottom of the screen, because he knows Bradford is going to check it down no matter how open they are. And if he does throw it downfield, he knows their receivers ain't catching it."
Lee continued, "Those little crossers will get you five, maybe ten yards a pop, until the defense 'picks the right play.' For example, you know that interception the Falcons got before the end of the first half against Philly? Nobody blocked their defensive linemen, the quarterback rushed the throw, and they picked him off. Classic 'picked the right play' scenario there."
As for the Eagles' rushing attack, Lee explained what the Dallas defense did very succinctly. "They only have two run plays," said Lee. "They have the inside zone play, and defensively, we just pick that play on first and second down so it won't work. If they call it, their offensive linemen will fly off our defensive linemen like they got hit by cars, and we'll usually get them for a loss of like five or six yards.
"And then they have their sweep play that takes so long to develop that the guy with the 1 or the 2 over his head can get over there in time to tackle him for a short gain. Then on third down we'll pick a pass play and hope their quarterback throws us a pick. It's pretty simple, really."
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*Sean Lee in no way participated in this article.