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Downfield Blocking Is The The Key To Texas Tech's Offense

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It's the most overlooked cog in the Texas Tech offensive juggernaut.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

We mostly know Texas Tech wideouts for their huge plays in the passing game. We know Jakeem Grant's big play ability, we know the legend of Wes Welker's never say die attitude, most of us remember the Crabtree catch every day, and we recall Jace Amaro's bull in a china shop approach to the slot/TE position. We understand their contributions to the passing game, we completely get the slant-route combinations that make the Air Raid so deadly. We're swept off our feet by plays like Jakeem Grant's massive juke against LSU, or Sadler jumping off his back foot to catch a pass.

We see the catches. We might even see how the slot receivers open things up for the outside receivers with their route running. However good those plays may be, they miss the biggest part of what the receivers do: they're responsible for crucial blocks that aid the running game, time and time again.

Downfield blocking is the #1 part of a successful offense. It's relatively easy to block well at the line of scrimmage. It's more difficult to block down the field, to make the extra effort for your team. Let's take a look at this DeAndre Washington rush.

via GIPHY

Texas Tech is lined up in their typical twins-spread look, TCU with a 1-LB look. The play is simple, a zone look to the outside. Alfredo Morales completely walls off the backside defensive end, Washington sees a huge open space to the backside, puts a little move on the linebacker, and breaks into the open field.

At this point, it's very easy for Grant and Lauderdale, the twin receivers on the left side of the field, to simply wall off. Long story short, they don't. Grant takes the fight to #32, even when he doesn't appear to notice that it's a run play. Lauderdale walls off #18, then turns around to get in his face. Washington was slowed by the safety coming in from extreme depth, and #26 makes the play.

I can't fault Grant and Lauderdale for not getting to the safety, but if they had, this play is a touchdown. There's simply no one wearing purple that can get a clean shot at Washington, partially because of his jukes and partially because of Grant and Lauderdale giving extra effort to make those blocks, even when the play was nearly over or had passed them by.

via GIPHY

In this play, Texas Tech is lined up in a 2-back Gun set, with the Grant set further inside than normal. The play is executed perfectly, Clark gets a piece of the backside linebacker, the middle linebacker has to respect Mahomes's play fake, and Grant stonewalls the strong side linebacker. This play is blocked brilliantly at the line of scrimmage, but the magic happens after the play.

Pearson, playing the role of RB here, makes an effective block on the safety around 5 yards downfield, springing DeAndre into the open field. Lauderdale sells the pass play to the cornerback, putting him in bad footing to tackle Washington. After the corner beats the block and misses the tackle, Lauderdale keeps going, taking away another backside pursuer to give Washington more time. Oh, and who's that monstrous man running down the field? It's Clark, here to help. When the camera zooms in on Washington going out of bounds, Clark, Lauderdale, and Pearson are all in the frame, 30 yards downfield of the line of scrimmage. Their extra effort turned this play from a 10-15 yard game into a 30 yard gain.

via GIPHY

This is a modest 5 or 6 yard gain off a draw play. The OSU linebacker makes a bad read, but the DT makes a great play to get off his blocker and find the ball. The key part in the equation is at the very bottom of the screen. Watch the WR sell the draw, engage the corner, and drive him out of the frame. If that DT doesn't make this play, there is a lone Cowboy defender between DeAndre Washington and probable paydirt. This is made possible by our WRs either selling their fakes excellently, or blocking the absolute crap out of anyone in their general vicinity.

Texas Tech's offense is potent, that much can't be denied. The difference between a good offense and a great offense is examples of great effort like these, especially in the run/screen game. It's not a coincidence that when Jakeem Grant stepped up his blocking game in 2014 and players like Lauderdale saw the field, Washington began ripping off huge runs with alarming frequency. A good offense will block well at the line of scrimmage. Great offenses don't stop blocking until the whistle blows.