How Cowboys Used Scissors To Create Big Plays From Tight Ends

One area in which the 8-6 Dallas Cowboys have faced a ton of criticism this season is with their passing game. Even without Ezekiel Elliott, the running game has given the offense *enough* most weeks. Failure to deliver through the air plagued Dallas greatly during their three game losing skid, however.

While it wasn’t always pretty Sunday Night in Oakland, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys made enough plays over the top of the Raiders defense to pull out a key victory. One play in particular aided them heavily early one, creating two deep receptions to tight ends. One of which set up the game’s first touchdown.

How did the Cowboys execute these big plays? One word – Scissors.

The scissors concept is pretty simple to grasp. The inside receiver runs a corner route while the outside receiver crosses him and runs a post route. The route combination quite literally forms a scissor, hence the name. This is a half-field read for the quarterback and his progression goes from post to corner most often.

Typically, this route combination is ideal verse 2-high. In this instance the outside receiver’s release will hold the cornerback, leaving the safety (who is responsible for the deep half of the field) to defend both the corner route and post route in his zone.

dalvsoak jason witten

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The first time the Cowboys went to this route concept, however, the Raiders rotated down to a cover 3 look. At first Oakland showed two-deep, but the near safety rolled down towards the line of scrimmage pre-snap. This left cover three behind him, and Dak Prescott was able to pick apart the secondary.

At this point in the play you can see the cornerback at the top of the screen flip his hips and run with Terrance Williams. The safety is rolling towards the middle of the field as he is responsible for the deep-middle, leaving that far corner in quite the bind.


A few moments later we see Jason Witten break off his route towards the sideline. Typically, scissors is taught for the inside receiver to cross underneath the post route, and considering the cushion being afforded here it appears to make a lot of sense.

The far cornerback should peel off of Williams and work back towards Witten, as he is responsible for that deep-third of the field. This would leave the deep safety to account for Williams across the middle. Instead he sticks with Beasley and the linebacker underneath fails to get enough depth to affect Prescott’s read whatsoever.

So since the safety doesn’t get the post, the corner doesn’t peel off and get to Witten, and the linebacker isn’t able to get enough depth in his zone (in Madden, we call what he needs to do a “purple zone”), Prescott finds Witten for an easy completion down the field.

dalvsoak james hanna

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Just two possessions later the Cowboys come back to scissors concept, this time on the opposite side of the field. James Hanna is lined up inline, and with Terrance Williams being the only wide-out on the field, I’m sure Oakland was expecting a run play.

Oakland is sitting in cover 3 again this time, and the failure of the playside cornerback to peel off the post route once again does them in. Still, credit must be given to the Cowboys coaching staff for recognizing this area of vulnerability in the Raiders’ defense and exploiting it during the game.

Also, credit Dak Prescott for not simply attacking what may have seemed like a one-on-one chance to Dez Bryant and instead remaining patient in his half-field read until Witten cleared underneath Beasley for the easy completion.

What do you think?

Kevin Brady

Written by Kevin Brady

Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.


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