For most of the offseason, perhaps the biggest conversation surrounding the Dallas Cowboys centered around Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb.

And that’s because the front office sent a simple message to the offense after trading Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns: Lamb would have to step up and become the WR1 they thought he could be when they drafted him with the 17th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Whether the move was right or wrong, it put the young wide receiver on a path to stardom, but also one featuring a lot of pressure.

For months, Lamb’s name was listed in every single article that compiled the league’s future breakout players, next-best playmakers, rising stars, whatever the label was… the Cowboys’ #88 was on it.

10 weeks into the season, that Prescott-Lamb conversation remains at the forefront of the Cowboys. And boy, oh boy, it got LOUD on Sunday when the pair was involved in the second interception of the game.

“That one was just miscommunication,” Prescott said after the game. “Similar to the one last week, honestly; thinking (CeeDee) was going to cross face, him seeing something different.”

While frustrating at the moment, the route/play Dak is referring to is really emblematic of Dak and CeeDee’s growing relationship as QB-WR.

A closer look at it reveals why.

The route in question is known by many names, including “Middle Field Read (MFR).” It’s often used by NFL offenses since it is considered a coverage-proof answer.

As Prescott alluded postgame, it’s the same route that resulted in an interception during the Cowboys’ win over the Detroit Lions.

Let’s break it down and dive into how the route works and the two times the Cowboys attempted it on Sunday’s loss at Lambeau.

Middle Field Route: All about chemistry

If the middle of the field is “open” (no safety positioned in the middle of the field), the receiver runs a post route. In other words, he attacks that empty portion of the field.

If the middle of the field is “closed” with a center-fielder type safety, the receiver crosses his face, essentially running a flat “in” route.

The Cowboys dialed up this concept on third down in the first half while leading by seven points. The offense is running the same concepts to the left and right sides of the formation, which is very common when running an MFR over the middle.

Look at CeeDee’s route below (in red). Again, if there’s a safety sitting in the middle of the field, it’s a “closed” look by the defense. That means Lamb must cross the safety’s face and win the contested catch.

In this case, it is a closed look. The red arrow below indicates what Lamb should’ve done in this look. Dak Prescott is throwing with anticipation before the Cowboys’ receiver makes his break.

However, Lamb gets behind the safety as he misreads the play and runs the post. The result is a gift of an interception for the Packers defensive back.

“I read it as Dak read it,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Monday.

As simple as it is, that kind of route is a coverage killer when you’ve got talented players like Prescott and Lamb running it. It’s a matchup nightmare for defenses when you’ve got a “guy” like CeeDee.

It’s also one that you can keep coming back to. The Cowboys did just that on Sunday.

“Just making sure we get on the same page,” said Prescott of what he takes away from the interception. “And we’re able to hit something very similar later, in overtime, actually.”

That’s right, Dallas came back to the route in overtime and they couldn’t have run it any better. The situation was a bit different as they faced second and three and lined up in an under-center look.

Pre-snap, the Packers showed a two-safety shell. That shows the offense that the middle of the field is open. However, the safety on the top of your screen (in the picture below) rotated to the middle of the field as soon as the ball was snapped.

It’s a very tough read for CeeDee Lamb, who’s making the read while running at full speed before making his break. Well, he read it perfectly and crossed the safety’s face.

The Cowboys’ quarterback threw a strike to Lamb as the receiver held on to the ball after a big hit. In other words, it was near perfect execution.

After the win over the Chicago Bears, Prescott promised they’d make a similar throw later in the season. The Cowboys’ signal caller let it be known that he’ll keep playing aggressive football.

It took him one game to deliver on that promise.

The Cowboys have something special going on with Dak and CeeDee. But the QB1-WR1 chemistry remains a work in progress.

In a way, this route is a glimpse into that growth.

If the Cowboys want to go on a Super Bowl run this season, it will be more about these two clicking consistently than any other potential addition to the offense.

Featured image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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