When the Raiders ran their zone-read option against the Chargers on Oct. 6 quarterback Terrelle Pryor had a good, but not great, day. He ran the option three times for 19 yards. But what he did was show the Redskins how the Chargers would defend this play.
Then the Redskins added their own wrinkle with the triple option. It worked twice – and should have worked the third time as well.
Against the Raiders, San Diego left the outside exposed on the first two runs. Pryor gained eight yards the first time because outside linebacker Larry English rushed hard upfield, then at the running back on the fake. The safety stayed back and the inside linebacker to that side did not fill the gap and wasn’t very aggressive.
The next time, the end rushed upfield but with the Chargers in man coverage no one was left outside and, once more, a passive fill by the linebacker left the outside exposed. Six more yards. Finally, on the third time the Redskins saw how San Diego likely would adjust in their game. The Chargers brought safety Eric Weddle into the action as an eighth defender in the box and had him run at the quarterback while the linebacker defended the running back. Pryor gained five yards by reversing field and running the other way.
Flash ahead to Sunday. San Diego played it the same way as it did when it should have stopped Pryor. Weddle walked up as an eighth defender and ran at quarterback Robert Griffin III, with English targeting running back Alfred Morris. Play stopped, right? Nope. Griffin pitched to Jordan Reed and, with eight defenders pinned between the tackles, San Diego was in trouble. Tackle Tyler Polumbus and tight end Logan Paulsen doubled linebacker Andrew Gachkar, with Paulsen eventually driving him to the ground. Reed had room to the outside for an 18-yard gain.
On the 18-yarder to Santana Moss, the Chargers again used eight in the box. Moss lined up about five yards behind the left tackle. Again, the outside linebacker runs at Morris. This time San Diego’s inside linebacker, Manti Te’o, rotated to the outside but did not fill the gap aggressively. Another double team with Polubmus and Reed; when Polumbus peeled off then Reed drove Te’o. That left Griffin one-on-one with the safety and when he forced him up, Griffin pitched to Moss who ran untouched for the first 13 yards.
The third one should have worked the same way, but Reed did not help Polumbus, who blocked down first, on a double team with the linebacker. Otherwise, it would have been the same scenario: a safety trying to stop both Griffin and Moss. Instead, it turned into a forward pass for two yards.
Regardless, the Redskins ran the triple option three times and gained 38 yards. The Raiders deserved an assist.