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In gridiron football, blitzing is a tactic used by the defense to disrupt pass attempts by the offense. During a blitz, a higher than usual number of defensive players will rush the opposing quarterback, in an attempt either to tackle him or force him to hurry his pass attempt.
In practice, a blitz involves five or more players rushing during a single down, rather than the four rushers used during normal play.For example, in a defense that normally uses four defensive linemen to rush, a blitz can be created by adding one or more linebackers or defensive backs.
Blitzing is a higher-risk strategy, as fewer defensive players are left to cover receivers or to defend against running plays. However, a successful blitz will result in a sack or will force the quarterback into making an error.
The term "blitz" is German for "lightning" and a reference to the blitzkrieg tactic of World War 2.
The blitz began with the "red-dog", likely first done by Red Ettinger a linebacker for the university of Kansas, sometime between 1948 and 1950.
The term "red-dog" referred to a rushing linebacker that created a six-on-five matchup against the offensive line; and blitz meant rushing seven, thereby leaving one potential receiver uncovered. The term "red-dog" is at least as old as 1959.
Chuck Drulis is widely credited with inventing the safety blitz in 1960 while serving as defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Cardinals. He had devised a play called "Wildcat" which called for a safety to be the extra pass rusher. He believed the pressure on the quarterback would be severe, since defensive backs had almost never taken part in pass rushes before.
Bill Arnsparger is the likely creator of the zone blitz.
On passing plays, the offense always has at least five people blocking. From the quarterback's left to right, they are the left tackle, left guard, center, right guard, right tackle. The quarterback will throw the pass, and is not an available blocker. Any other player is available to block, or to be a target for a pass, depending on the play design and modification by the quarterback and center based on what they see the defense doing.
By nature, blitzes are risky endeavors for the defense. Since the defense is taking away coverage defenders to rush the quarterback, this usually means that the secondary can not afford to miss any coverage assignments. The defense does not and cannot cover all offensive players, but rather through the blitz, is proactively involved in pressuring the quarterback—specifically, trying to sack him, throw off his timing, or force him to make an error such as an interception or fumble.
The most common blitzes are linebacker blitzes. Safety blitzes, in which a safety (usually the free safety) is sent, and corner blitzes, where a cornerback is sent, are less common. Sending a defensive back on a blitz is even riskier than a linebacker blitz, as it removes a primary pass defender from the coverage scheme. The pressure, however, is very severe because a blitz by a defensive back is usually not anticipated by the offensive team's blockers.
Blitzes are usually run from "Cover 1" coverage shells, which assign one man to guard the entire deep field, though blitzes can be employed in nearly any coverage scheme. Cover 1 is most effective in terms of blitzing because it allows a larger number of defensive players to tighten down on the line of scrimmage, thus increasing the variety of blitzes possible.
Since the main goal is to disrupt the offensive play before it even develops, many blitz packages encourage cornerbacks to play tight man bump and run coverage to disrupt the wide receivers' release and prevent them from running their pre-assigned routes. The non-blitzing safety, usually the free safety, has an enormous amount of field to protect and is at a serious disadvantage if the blitz is unsuccessful and receivers threaten his coverage area or if the offense can quickly move the ball forward through immediate checkdown passes or draw plays. As such, he usually works for depth upon the snap of the ball, backpedaling into his assigned zone.
Linebackers are either blitzing or in pass coverage. Blitzing linebackers can employ various stunts to confuse the offense's blockers and break down their protection scheme. Coverage linebackers in a Cover 1 scheme will usually have man responsibility on a halfback, fullback, or tight end.
Some defensive schemes employ "key" blitzes where a player will blitz only if his assigned man stays in to block, thus keying his action off the action of his man. If his man releases into a pass pattern, then the defensive player will cover him. For example, if weak side linebacker has the fullback as his man, if upon the snap of the ball the fullback blocks, the linebacker will blitz.
Advantages gained by blitzing are obvious: proactively disrupt the offense's play before it develops and cause enough pressure on the quarterback to force him into a turnover, sack, or incomplete pass.
Disadvantages abound in any blitz scheme as well. First, the offensive linemen are usually trained to recognize a blitzing player before the snap of the ball. They communicate with each other at the line of scrimmage using code words that shift the protection to the blitzing player's side, thus strengthening their blocking front. The quarterback can also call other players into the protection scheme with audibles if he feels that his current protection is weak. With good protection calls and fundamental blocking principles, some blitzes can be "picked up" — stopped at the point of attack.
Second, the tight man bump and run technique typical of blitz scheme cornerbacks can be defeated with aggressive wide receiver release moves. Once this happens, the cornerback is at a disadvantage and must regain ground and position quickly to prevent a catch. If the blitz is picked up, the wide receiver can create enough separation to become open relatively quickly.
Third, if the blitz is picked up, the one deep defender (usually the free safety) has an enormous amount of territory to guard. If two players simultaneously threaten his zone, he must decide which one to cover. The quarterback can read his reaction and throw to the other receiver, usually for a big gain.
Fourth, if the pass is caught, there are fewer defenders and larger gaps between defenders, meaning that the receiver can get more yards after catch and possibly turn a minimal gain into a dangerous play.
Offenses employ the above procedures to beat the blitz as well as two other techniques and passing route combinations designed to exploit weaknesses in a blitzing scheme.
One of those techniques is called "throwing hot," which entails intentionally leaving one blitzing defensive player unblocked. The offensive line usually makes pre-snap adjustments so that the "free" rusher is clearly within the QB's field of vision. This limits devastating blind-side hits on the QB by rushers. When the preparedness of a quarterback allows him to not have to worry about getting hit from behind, it is one less psychological element of the blitz to be taken away, and thus blitz is incrementally made less effective by that particular element.
The other technique, sometimes used in conjunction with throwing hot, is called sight adjustment. Receivers are taught to run into the empty spot vacated by a blitzing player instead of running their pre-assigned pattern. The QB sees the free rusher or blitzing LB/CB and knows that the receiver will sight adjust accordingly and run a route that takes him into the hole left by the defender.
The West Coast Offense is an offense that focuses on ball control and short passes. This is a well timed offense where the quarterback throws the ball quickly to avoid the rush, but still allow the wide receiver to get behind the blitzing players.
Another method is a trick play, known as an "offensive blitz", because it is used when the defense blitzes. A quarterback throws a pass to a receiver to draw the remaining defenders to him, because the blitzers will be in the backfield, and the quarterback runs down the other side of the field; the receiver then throws the ball back to the quarterback with a lateral, who then tries to run in for a touchdown. If executed properly, this play can result in large gains and heavily discourage blitzing. Ideally, the blitzing defenders are all in the backfield while the corners are all over the receiver. The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have run variations of the play successfully in the National Football League playoffs.
A running back (RB) is a member of the offensive backfield in gridiron football. The primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback to rush the ball, to line up as a receiver to catch the ball, and block. There are usually one or two running backs on the field for a given play, depending on the offensive formation. A running back may be a halfback, a wingback or a fullback. A running back will sometimes be called a "feature back" if he is the team's starting running back.
A cornerback (CB) is a member of the defensive backfield or secondary in gridiron football. Cornerbacks cover receivers most of the time, but also blitz and defend against such offensive running plays as sweeps and reverses. They create turnovers through hard tackles, interceptions, and deflecting forward passes.
A linebacker is a playing position in gridiron football. Linebackers are members of the defensive team, and line up approximately three to five yards behind the line of scrimmage and behind the defensive linemen. They represent the "middle ground" of defenders, playing closer to the line of scrimmage than do the defensive backs, but farther back than do the defensive linemen.
A screen pass is a play in gridiron football consisting of a short pass to a receiver who is protected by a screen of blockers. During a screen pass, a number of things happen concurrently in order to fool the defense into thinking a long pass is being thrown, when in fact the pass is merely a short one, just beyond the defensive linemen. Screens are usually deployed against aggressive defenses that rush the passer. Because screens invite the defense to rush the quarterback, they are designed to leave fewer defensemen behind the rushers to stop the play.
Strategy forms a major part of American football. Both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent in order to win the game.
The 46 defense is an American football defensive formation, an eight men in the box defense, with six players along the line of scrimmage. There are two players at linebacker depth playing linebacker technique, and then three defensive backs. The 46 defense was originally developed and popularized with the Chicago Bears by their defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who later became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.
A formation in football refers to the position players line up in before the start of a down. There are both offensive and defensive formations and there are many formations in both categories. Sometimes, formations are referred to as packages.
In American football, a zone blitz is a defensive tactic that sends additional players to rush the opposing team's quarterback, whilst also unexpectedly redirecting a supposed pass rushing player into pass coverage instead. This tactic also likely includes zone coverage.
The Tampa 2 is an American football defensive scheme popularized by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers National Football League (NFL) team in the mid-1990s–early 2000s. The Tampa 2 is typically employed out of a 4–3 defensive alignment, which consists of four linemen, three linebackers, two cornerbacks, and two safeties. The defense is similar to a Cover 2 defense, except the middle linebacker drops into a deep middle coverage for a Cover 3 when he reads a pass play.
A halfback (HB) is an offensive position in American football, whose duties involve lining up in the backfield and carrying the ball on most rushing plays, i.e. a running back. When the principal ball carrier lines up deep in the backfield, and especially when that player is placed behind another player, as in the I formation, that player is instead referred to as a tailback.
In American football, the specific role that a player takes on the field is referred to as their "position". Under the modern rules of American football, both teams are allowed 11 players on the field at one time and have "unlimited free substitutions", meaning that they may change any number of players during any "dead ball" situation. This has resulted in the development of three task-specific "platoons" of players within any single team: the offense, the defense, and the so-called 'special teams'. Within these three separate "platoons", various positions exist depending on the jobs that the players are doing.
Safety is a position in gridiron football on the defense. The safeties are defensive backs who line up ten to fifteen yards from the line of scrimmage. There are two variations of the position: the free safety and the strong safety. Their duties depend on the defensive scheme. The defensive responsibilities of the safety and cornerback usually involve pass coverage towards the middle and sidelines of the field. While American (11-player) formations generally use two safeties, Canadian (12-player) formations generally have one safety and two defensive halfbacks, a position not used in the American game.
In American football, a play is a close-to-the-ground plan of action or strategy used to move the ball down the field. A play begins at either the snap from the center or at kickoff. Most commonly, plays occur at the snap during a down. These plays range from basic to very intricate. Football players keep a record of these plays in a playbook.
In American football, the 3–4 defense is a common defensive alignment consisting of three down linemen and four linebackers. It is a called a "base defense" because it is the default defensive alignment used on "base downs". However, defenses will readily switch to other defensive alignments as circumstances change. Alternatively, some defenses use a 4–3 defense.
Zone coverage is a defense scheme in gridiron football used to protect against the pass.
In American football, a 4–3 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of four down linemen and three linebackers. It is called a "base defense" because it is the default defensive alignment used on "base downs". However, defenses will readily switch to other defensive alignments as circumstances change. Alternatively, some defenses use a 3–4 defense.
The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.
In American football, an eight-in-the-box defense is a defensive alignment in which 8 of the 11 defensive players are close to the line of scrimmage.
A route is a pattern or path that a receiver in gridiron football runs to get open for a forward pass. Routes are usually run by wide receivers, running backs and tight ends, but other positions can act as a receiver given the play.