Kellen Moore adding rugby’s ‘rolling maul’ to the Cowboys playbook

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite being undefeated in the month of December, the Dallas Cowboys offense had been struggling as of late. Before Sunday’s slaughter of the Washington Football Team, Dallas seemed to be doing just enough to win games each week.

Whether that was according to plan or a true stagnation in production, is unknown, but there’s enough evidence to support the idea Kellen Moore was saving his good plays/schemes/concepts for the postseason – when one single play can make or break the season.

On Sunday we saw plays we haven’t seen in some time. Some plays, like that failed variation of the ‘ol hook-and-ladder, were brand new, and others we’ve seen many times before (earlier in the season). But it’s a third type of play that has been popping up around the league and seems to have earned  permanent spot in Kellen’s playbook.

Kellen Moore has added a new layer to the Dallas Cowboys playbook by adding a popular rugby play to his attack.

While American football is unique to itself, it unabashedly draws from other sports in both it’s birth and in its innovation. Before the forward pass took over, rugby was a big element of the NFL game, with easy to see parallels that even the Americanist of Americans wouldn’t dare deny.

As years have gone on the similarities have faded, but Kellen Moore’s adoption of the rolling maul may change that…

The Rolling Maul

A “maul” is when the player with the ball is held up or stopped by opposing players. But before the ball carrier can be brought down, other offensive players bind onto the player. It begins “rolling” when said offensive players keep moving the momentum forward and ball carrier remains on his feet.

As long as the momentum isn’t stopped (which could bring on a play-stopping whistle from NFL officials) or the player with the ball doesn’t fall to the ground, the ball can be advanced. The rolling maul is essentially a moving mass of humanity that’s impervious to singular attacks and requires team effort from the defense to halt its advance.

Says New Zealand’s Rugby Toolbox:

"No single tackle can stop it, no heroic turnover can prevent it, and unlike other aspects of the field, no amount of individual brilliance can halt what is rugby’s closest equivalent to the Roman Phalanx."

At first sighting, the Dallas Cowboys discovery of the rolling maul appeared accidental. But on further review, it looks like it may be a calculated effort, and if so, could be an important part of the offense when facing smaller and quicker defenses this winter.

On the play above, we see the rolling maul again but this time it looks completely intentional. Tony Pollard takes the handoff but instead of attempting to dodge tackles/find daylight, the most illusive back in the NFL wraps the ball up and steps willfully into the mass.

The rolling maul is essentially a moving mass of humanity that’s impervious to singular attacks and requires team effort from the defense to halt its advance

Dallas’ ridiculously strong linemen all link up around him and behind him, rolling the maul towards the goal line. Eventually the base would give out – but you can see how it takes a team effort by the defense, of equal or greater strength, to stop this new “Cowboy Phalanx.”

What’s also interesting is it appears the Cowboys faked the exact same thing one play later, only to okie-doke their way to a Terence Steele touchdown pass.

Kellen Moore, one of the NFL’s youngest and brightest offensive minds has done it again. Accused of vanilla games plans for weeks now, Moore has reminded us all what the boy genius can do, if he just lets those creative juices run.

light. Must Read. Film Study: How good was Kelvin Joseph in his Cowboys debut?

NFL, you’ve been warned. Here comes the Cowboy Phalanx (aka rolling maul).

  • Published on 12/29/2021 at 13:48 PM
  • Last updated at 12/29/2021 at 13:48 PM