The play is called "Counter-Trey" and you'll find it listed in the Washington Redskins' playbook under the headings of "deception" and "destruction."
Remember when fullback John Riggins ran for that eight-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the 20-0 victory over Philadelphia last week? He ran through a hole on the right side that was so wide that he wasn't touched until he reached the end zone. Easy money.
The successful play-call (this time by quarterback Joe Theismann's audible) was Counter-Trey. By Coach Joe Gibbs' figuring, this was about the 10th time in the game that the play was used.
"That's probably the most we've ever run that play in a game, except for the (NFC title game) against San Francisco last year, when we ran it about 12 times," Gibbs said.
All-pro left guard Russ Grimm, one of the crucial cogs/Hogs on the play, added, "That's about as good as that play will go."
To consider the importance of this play to the Redskins' running game, you must first reflect back to the 1982 season, which Gibbs recently referred to as "the Super Bowl year." (Can you blame him for wanting to forget that the Redskins also appeared in last season's Super Bowl?)
During that season, the running play used most often by the Redskins was called "50-Gut," in which Riggins ran left, between Grimm and all-pro left tackle Joe Jacoby.
Entering last season, though, the Redskins' offensive theorists searched for a play that would keep defenses from waiting for 50-Gut, the team's wear-'em-out staple.
Enter Counter-Trey, a play that has the appearance of 50-Gut, but really is quite different -- a misdirection play that usually goes to the opposite direction (to the right) of 50-Gut.
"We go to the right more than 80 percent of the time with Counter-Trey because of the kind of athletes that Grimm and Jacoby are," said Joe Bugel, the offensive line coach.
Counter-Trey, then, usually goes something like this: Grimm and Jacoby pull across to the right side as lead blockers, while the blockers on the right side (guard Mark May, tackle George Starke, tight end Don Warren, along with center Jeff Bostic) downblock defenders towards the left, away from Riggins' desired running path on the right.
Theismann and Riggins begin the play with a fake motion to the left, as though the play will go left (a la 50-Gut) and Theismann continues to roll out.
"Joe and John have to be good actors on this," Bugel said. "Usually Joe will take two (defenders) with him on the rollout."
This backfield bluff also allows enough time for Grimm and Jacoby to pull across the field. Consequently, defenses often are unable to decipher the difference between 50-Gut and Counter-Trey until it is too late.
Pulling to the right, Grimm usually blocks the right outside linebacker and Jacoby takes his 6-foot-7, 310-pound frame into whichever defender is left in the running path, usually a linebacker or a smallish defensive back. Either way, it's a colossal mismatch in Jacoby's favor. Riggins can follow behind Jacoby or pick his spot to the outside.
"Watching a 290-pound guard (Grimm) and a 310-pound tackle (Jacoby) pulling over -- well, it's just an awesome sight," Bugel said. Bostic added, "If you're a 180-pound defensive back and you see Jacoby coming at you, you start shaking in your boots."
"It's been a consistent play for us; we've averaged over four yards each time we use it," said the coach of the running backs, Don Breaux, who said the Redskins first considered the play after seeing several college teams use similar plays. "Really, we got the play from Nebraska. They were one of the first teams to really rip people with it.
"Some people said, 'You use a one-back offense and you can't have any misdirection plays with it,' " Breaux added. "I think we've proved that we can and this play is the one that's helped us in that regard . . When I stand on the sideline and see the outside linebacker close (thinking the play is 50-Gut), I get excited and say, 'We got it.' "
By the very design of Counter-Trey, what the Redskins are doing, in essence, is cloning Grimm and Jacoby, the two most dominant Hogs. Can't have them start on the right, but we can sure move them over there.
The most difficult part of the play for the two pulling all-pros? "Running seven or eight yards to the other side," Grimm said. "We had tried other combinations of misdirection plays in the past, but none had both me and Jake (Jacoby) pulling.
"(Counter-Trey) has been working well for us right from the start. We've made some big runs off of it," he added. "I don't think we've broken any long ones off of it, but it's been a consistent play. It usually gets us five-plus yards. Very seldom, if ever, do we take a loss."
"One guy who can really make this play is Joe Washington," said Breaux, speaking of the veteran running back currently on injured reserve. "I think this play enabled Joe to have the best rushing average (5.3 yards per carry) in the NFL last year.
"Joe relies on quickness and this play is a natural for him. He follows Jacoby, puts his hand on (Jacoby's) back and, as Little Joe likes to say, 'Nobody can even see me behind him.' With John (Riggins), it's more of a power play."
"We had problems with the timing at first," Bugel said. "Now, I think 20 of the 28 teams in the league are using a similar play. I don't know if I'd call them copycats. I just think if a play works well, other teams will try it, too."
Riggins chose to rest his lower back injury yesterday and did not practice. Nevertheless, he is expected to play in Sunday's game at Indianapolis.
"That's the first time he's missed a Friday practice," Gibbs said. "John told me that his gut feeling is that he'll be there (on Sunday)."
Once again, strong safety Tony Peters didn't practice yesterday because of a pulled abdominal muscle. Ken Coffey has replaced him.
"It's likely Kenny will start and then we'll see what happens with Tony," Gibbs said.