The blitz is a defensive strategy that involves sending additional players to rush the quarterback in an attempt to disrupt the offense’s passing game.
It is a high-risk, high-reward tactic that can lead to sacks, turnovers, and game-changing plays.
Below we look into the different types of blitzes, how to execute them effectively, when to use them strategically, and how the offense can counter them.
Types of Blitzes
There are various types of blitzes that defensive coordinators employ to confuse and overwhelm the offense.
Each type has its own objectives and requires specific player assignments and execution. Let’s explore some of the most common types:
1. Zone Blitz
The zone blitz is a deceptive tactic that aims to confuse the quarterback by dropping defensive linemen into coverage while sending linebackers or defensive backs on a blitz.
This type of blitz is effective in creating coverage mismatches and forcing the quarterback into making quick decisions under pressure.
2. A-gap Blitz
The A-gap blitz involves sending a linebacker or safety through the gap between the center and the guard on either side of the offensive line.
This blitz is designed to disrupt the quarterback’s timing and prevent him from stepping up in the pocket to make accurate throws.
3. Edge Blitz
The edge blitz is executed by sending a linebacker or cornerback from the outside edge of the offensive line.
This type of blitz aims to put immediate pressure on the quarterback, forcing him to make hurried throws or scramble out of the pocket.
4. Double A-gap Blitz
The double A-gap blitz is a more aggressive variation of the A-gap blitz, where two linebackers or safeties attack the A-gaps simultaneously.
This blitz is particularly effective against offenses that heavily rely on quick passes and do not have enough time to adjust their protection schemes.
5. Fire Zone Blitz
The fire zone blitz combines elements of both man-to-man and zone coverage.
It involves sending multiple defenders on a blitz while dropping others into specific zones to cover receivers.
This type of blitz is designed to confuse the quarterback and force him into making errant throws into tight coverage.
How to Execute a Blitz
Executing a successful blitz requires precise coordination, timing, and understanding of the offensive tendencies.
Here are the key steps to effectively execute a blitz:
1. Pre-Snap Communication
Before the snap, the defensive players must communicate their assignments and responsibilities to ensure everyone is on the same page.
This includes identifying potential hot routes, adjusting coverage assignments, and designating the primary blitzer.
2. Timing and Cadence
The defense must time their blitz to catch the offense off guard.
This involves varying the cadence and snap count to disrupt the offensive line’s rhythm and prevent them from adjusting their protection schemes accordingly.
3. Proper Gap Control
Each defender involved in the blitz must have a designated gap to attack.
It is crucial for the defenders to maintain their gap integrity and not overcommit, as this can create running lanes for the offense.
4. Effective Pass Rush Moves
Defenders executing the blitz must utilize effective pass rush moves to beat their blockers and reach the quarterback.
Techniques such as speed rushes, bull rushes, and spin moves can be employed to create pressure and disrupt the passing game.
5. Coverage Adjustments
While some defenders are blitzing, others must drop into coverage to compensate for the vacated areas.
This requires quick recognition of the offensive play and proper positioning to prevent big plays in the passing game.
Recognizing Blitz & Pressure
When to Blitz Strategically
Knowing when to blitz is crucial for defensive coordinators to keep the offense off balance and create opportunities for turnovers.
Here are some strategic situations where blitzing can be highly effective:
1. Obvious Passing Downs
Blitzing on obvious passing downs, such as third-and-long or in two-minute drill situations, can put immense pressure on the quarterback and force him into making hurried decisions.
2. Against Inexperienced Quarterbacks
Blitzing can be particularly effective against inexperienced or rookie quarterbacks who may struggle to read complex defensive schemes and make quick decisions under pressure.
3. Red Zone Defense
Blitzing in the red zone can disrupt the timing of the offense’s passing game, as the field becomes more condensed and the quarterback has less time to make decisions.
4. Key Moments in the Game
Strategically timed blitzes in critical moments of the game, such as on fourth down or during a two-point conversion attempt, can catch the offense off guard and swing the momentum in favor of the defense.
How the Offense Identifies a Blitz
Identifying a blitz is important for the offense to adjust their protection scheme and counter the incoming pressure.
Here are some ways the offense can identify a blitz:
Before the snap, the offense can analyze the defensive alignment to identify potential blitzes.
They may look for indicators such as defenders showing a crowded line of scrimmage, players creeping towards the line, or defensive backs showing an unusual alignment or positioning.
The offense assigns specific “key” defenders to each player responsible for protection.
These key defenders are typically identified based on their alignment, positioning, or pre-snap movements.
Offensive linemen, running backs, and quarterbacks may focus on specific defenders to determine if they are likely to blitz.
The offense relies on effective communication among players to identify potential blitzes.
Quarterbacks, offensive linemen, and running backs communicate pre-snap calls, protection adjustments, and potential blitz alerts to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Studying game film and analyzing opponents’ tendencies can provide insights into their blitz packages.
Recognizing patterns and tendencies in certain down-and-distance situations or specific formations can help the offense anticipate and identify potential blitzes.
Safeties often have a significant role in the blitz package.
The offense may pay attention to the positioning and movements of the safeties.
If a safety creeps closer to the line of scrimmage or shows an inclination to blitz, it can be an indicator of an incoming blitz.
Audibles and Hot Routes
Quarterbacks may have the ability to audibilize at the line of scrimmage based on what they observe from the defense.
They can change the protection scheme, call for additional blockers, or adjust routes to counter the anticipated blitz.
Reading Defensive Cues
The offense may look for subtle cues from the defense, such as defenders tipping their blitz intentions through body language, sudden shifts, or communication among defensive players.
These cues can provide hints about the impending blitz.
It’s important to note that the defense may try to disguise their blitzes to confuse the offense. This makes the identification process more challenging.
Therefore, the offense must continuously analyze the defense pre-snap and make adjustments during the game based on real-time observations and communication.
How the Offense Stops a Blitz
The offense has several strategies to counter a blitz and protect the quarterback.
Here are some effective ways to stop a blitz:
1. Hot Routes
The offense can incorporate hot routes into their passing plays, where receivers adjust their routes to quick, short throws to exploit the vacated areas left by blitzing defenders.
2. Slide Protection
Offensive linemen can use slide protection schemes to shift their blocking assignments and create a wall of protection against the blitz.
This involves the linemen sliding in unison to the side of the blitz, leaving fewer gaps for defenders to exploit.
3. Max Protect Schemes
In max protect schemes, the offense keeps additional blockers, such as tight ends or running backs, in to help protect the quarterback.
This provides extra time for the quarterback to make his reads and find open receivers.
4. Quick Passes
The offense can utilize quick passing plays, such as slants, screens, or quick outs, to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands before the blitz can reach him.
How Defenses Disguise a Blitz
Defenses often use various tactics to disguise their blitzes, aiming to confuse the offense and prevent them from effectively identifying and countering the incoming pressure.
Here are some common ways defenses disguise a blitz:
Defenders may initially align in a way that conceals their true intentions.
They can show different defensive fronts or alignments than what they ultimately execute.
For example, linebackers or defensive backs might line up closer to the line of scrimmage or show a blitzing stance to give the impression of an impending blitz.
Defenders can delay their movements after the snap to create uncertainty for the offense.
They may initially drop into coverage or take a step back before charging forward.
This delay can disrupt the timing of the offense’s protection scheme, causing confusion and leaving gaps in the blocking assignments.
In a zone blitz, defenders exchange responsibilities to create deception.
For instance, a defensive lineman may drop into coverage while a linebacker or defensive back rushes the quarterback.
By swapping the traditional roles of players, the defense disguises the incoming pressure and confuses the offense’s pass protection assignments.
Defenses can rotate their coverage post-snap to mask the intended blitzers.
For instance, a safety or cornerback may rotate down to the line of scrimmage while a linebacker drops into coverage.
This rotation can create hesitation for the offense and disrupt their pass protection plans.
Defenses may simulate pressure by showing blitz looks without actually bringing extra rushers.
They can bluff by bringing a few defenders close to the line of scrimmage or displaying aggressive stances, aiming to force the offense to adjust their protection scheme unnecessarily, potentially leaving them vulnerable to other defensive strategies.
Overload blitzes involve bringing more rushers from one side of the formation than the offense can effectively block.
By overloading a particular side, the defense creates a numerical advantage and forces the offense to make quick adjustments.
This blitz design can confuse the offense and lead to unblocked rushers.
Linebackers may “mug” the line of scrimmage by walking up to the line, showing a potential blitz threat.
This can create uncertainty for the offense, as the linebacker may drop into coverage or actually rush the passer.
The mugging technique aims to disguise the defense’s intentions and disrupt the offense’s pass protection schemes.
Changing Snap Count and Cadence
Defenses may vary the snap count and cadence to disrupt the offense’s timing and prevent them from correctly identifying the blitz.
By causing hesitation or mistimed reactions, the defense gains an advantage in executing their disguised blitz packages.
It’s important for the offense to remain observant, analyze defensive movements and alignments, communicate effectively, and be prepared to make adjustments on the fly.
By studying film, recognizing tendencies, and practicing situational awareness, the offense can minimize the impact of disguised blitzes.
A corner blitz involves a cornerback, typically lined up on the edge of the defensive formation, aggressively rushing towards the quarterback.
The cornerback’s goal is to disrupt the quarterback’s timing, force quick decisions, or even sack the quarterback.
The cornerback may disguise the blitz by initially appearing to drop into coverage before charging forward.
- Timing: The corner must time the blitz properly to avoid being picked up by the offensive line. This often involves anticipating the snap count and making a quick, explosive move towards the backfield as the ball is snapped.
- Disguise: It’s crucial for the cornerback to disguise the blitz to prevent the offense from adjusting their protection scheme. This may involve lining up in a non-threatening position or initially showing coverage before committing to the blitz.
- Edge Rush: The corner typically takes an outside path, aiming to get around the offensive tackle or tight end to reach the quarterback. Quickness, agility, and a well-executed pass-rushing move are essential to succeed in this blitz.
A safety blitz involves a safety, who is traditionally stationed deep in the secondary, rushing towards the line of scrimmage to pressure the quarterback.
The safety’s goal is to disrupt the pocket, force the quarterback to make hurried decisions, or sack the quarterback.
The safety may disguise the blitz by initially appearing to drop into coverage before charging forward.
- Timing and Angle: The safety must time the blitz well to avoid being picked up by the offensive line or running backs responsible for pass protection. It requires explosiveness off the snap and taking an appropriate angle to penetrate the pocket and disrupt the quarterback.
- Coverage Responsibility: When the safety blitzes, the remaining defensive players must adjust their coverage responsibilities to compensate for the safety’s absence. Linebackers or other defensive backs may need to rotate or drop into zones to maintain pass coverage integrity.
- Versatility: Safeties often possess a combination of speed, size, and coverage skills, making them effective blitzers. They can come from different angles, either off the edge or through the A or B gaps, utilizing their versatility to surprise the offense.
Both corner and safety blitzes are high-risk, high-reward strategies.
If executed successfully, they can create chaos in the backfield, disrupt timing, and lead to quarterback pressures, sacks, or turnovers.
However, if the blitz is not timed well or properly disguised, it can leave the defense vulnerable to big plays if the offense can exploit the vacated coverage areas.
These blitzes require coordination with the rest of the defensive unit and the ability to read and react to offensive formations and cues to maximize their effectiveness.
FAQs – Blitz
1. What is the purpose of a blitz in football?
The purpose of a blitz is to disrupt the offense’s passing game by sending additional defenders to rush the quarterback, increasing the pressure on him and forcing quick decisions.
2. How do you identify a potential blitz?
Potential blitzes can be identified by observing the defensive alignment, pre-snap movement, and communication among defensive players.
Additionally, tendencies of the defensive coordinator and situational factors can provide clues about the likelihood of a blitz.
3. Can a blitz be effective against a strong running team?
While blitzing is primarily used to disrupt the passing game, it can also be effective against strong running teams by creating chaos in the backfield and disrupting the timing of running plays.
4. What are the risks of blitzing?
Blitzing carries inherent risks, as it can leave the defense vulnerable to big plays if the blitz is not executed properly.
If the offense successfully identifies and counters the blitz, it can result in open receivers and potential touchdowns.
5. How do defensive players communicate during a blitz?
Defensive players communicate during a blitz through hand signals, verbal calls, and pre-determined assignments.
This ensures that everyone understands their responsibilities and can adjust to any offensive audibles or changes.
6. Can a blitz be effective without sacking the quarterback?
A blitz can be effective even without sacking the quarterback. It can disrupt the timing of the passing game, force the quarterback into making hurried throws, and create opportunities for interceptions or incompletions.
7. How do offenses adjust to unexpected blitzes?
Offenses can adjust to unexpected blitzes by incorporating hot routes, slide protection schemes, max protect schemes, and quick passes to counter the additional pressure and exploit the vacated areas left by blitzing defenders.
8. Are there any statistics that highlight the effectiveness of blitzing?
Statistics such as sack numbers, quarterback pressures, and turnovers forced can provide insights into the effectiveness of blitzing.
However, it is important to consider the overall defensive scheme, personnel, and game situations when analyzing these statistics.
9. Can a well-executed blitz lead to a game-changing play?
A well-executed blitz can indeed lead to a game-changing play, such as a sack, forced fumble, interception, or a significant loss of yardage.
These plays can swing the momentum in favor of the defense and have a profound impact on the outcome of the game.
10. How do offenses prepare for potential blitzes?
Offenses prepare for potential blitzes by studying the tendencies of the opposing defense, identifying potential blitz packages, and incorporating specific plays and protections to counter the blitz.
This involves film study, scouting reports, and effective communication among the offensive players.
The blitz is a strategic defensive tactic used in football to disrupt the offense’s passing game.
By sending additional defenders to rush the quarterback, the defense aims to create pressure, force quick decisions, and potentially generate turnovers.
Different types of blitzes, such as the zone blitz, A-gap blitz, edge blitz, double A-gap blitz, and fire zone blitz, offer various ways to confuse and overwhelm the offense.
Executing a successful blitz requires pre-snap communication, proper timing, gap control, effective pass rush moves, and coverage adjustments.
Strategic situations for blitzing include obvious passing downs, inexperienced quarterbacks, red zone defense, and key moments in the game.
However, offenses can counter blitzes through hot routes, slide protection, max protect schemes, and quick passes.
Understanding the intricacies of the blitz and its countermeasures can provide teams with a competitive edge on both sides of the ball.