What is a Blitz in Football?

what is a blitz in football

When watching a football game in-person or on TV, you might see the defense team quickly rush the QB and either sack them or cause them to throw an incomplete pass due to the rush. This type of defensive team play is known as a blitz? So what is blitz in football, what are different formations, and should you run it on every play? Find out more below!


What is a Blitz in Football?

what does a blitz look like in the NFL

A blitz is a single-down defensive play that sends five or more defensive players to the line of scrimmage to disrupt the offense. In most scenarios, the ultimate goal of the blitz is to sack the quarterback. However, blitzes can still be effective if they disrupt play in other ways, like forcing an incomplete pass, recovering an interception, or stopping the running back at the line of scrimmage. 


Why is it Called a Blitz?

why is it called a blitz

The blitz gets its name from the German term “blitzkrieg,” which means “lightning war.” This translation illustrates how the blitz should appear when attacking the offensive line. Blitzers should strike fast and with impressive force to cause the offense to crumple, leaving the passer exposed.


The play was first called a blitz by the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Cardinals, Chuck Drulis, around 1960. His wildcat blitz, or safety blitz, adapted the previous well-used “red dog” defensive strategies. 


The red-dog play, which coaches developed in the late 1940s, involved rushing a linebacker to create a six-on-five man advantage against the offensive line. Red Ettinger, a linebacker for the University of Kansas, is usually credited as the first man to run a blitz strategy in 1948. Football teams continued to refer to these plays as red-dog plays until the term blitz became more popular ten years later. Some teams still use the term “dog” to refer to defensive players rushing the line of scrimmage during a play.


What is the Purpose of a Blitz?

what is the purpose of a blitz

A well-played blitz can overwhelm the offensive linemen, allowing a linebacker to get through and potentially sack the quarterback. Effectively dominating an offense can have several benefits throughout the game. It can put pressure on the offense to make passes before the play develops, disrupting the play’s timing. It can also make the quarterback insecure in the pocket, forcing him to run and throw poorly.


What are the Different Types of Blitzes?

This defensive scheme is easily customizable, and a defensive coordinator may have several unique blitz packages in their playbook for different scenarios on the field. 


Zone Blitz

Some defensive players will drop back to play zone coverage in this blitz scheme, leaving a linebacker to rush forward and take their place on the line. A fire zone blitz is a standard version of this play. It’s often problematic for the quarterback to read, as he’s unsure which blockers are rushing and who will cover the field. Dick LeBeau made the zone blitz popular in the 1980s as defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL.


Secondary Blitz

This blitz package involves players from the secondary, safety, or cornerback coming down to blitz. Bringing these players closer to the line of scrimmage is often confusing to the offense and may cause them to read the play improperly. The Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is well known for his ability to attack during the secondary blitz.


Zero Blitz

This blitz package is one of the most high-risk plays a defense can run, as it leaves zero players in the backfield. Unlike a zone blitz, this requires the defensive line to engage in man coverage, where each player is responsible for another player on the offensive line. It’s usually only used when the defense is expecting a running play. 


Can you Blitz Every Play?

can you blitz every play

While blitzing is reasonably effective, it can be risky because there’s limited protection against passing plays. This little protection makes it difficult to run during every play. Instead, it’s a significant threat against the offense and can confuse and wear down offensive players throughout the game. 


Some defensive coordinators use the zone blitz more often than conventional strategies because it allows for some pass coverage if the wide receiver or tight end gets open. 


The goal of a blitz is to establish quarterback pressure. However, it’s not the only way to successfully influence the passer. For example, in 2020, the Baltimore Ravens blitzed over 44% of the time, while the Los Angeles Chargers only blitzed 16%. Despite their blitzing disparities, the Ravens established quarterback pressure about 27% of the time, which is only slightly higher than the Chargers’ 24%. This percentage breakdown shows that the Chargers could have similar defensive production without incurring the risk of using the blitz.


While blitzing is a tool to put pressure on the offense, it’s not always the best or more effective way to do so. It’s up to the defensive coordinator to find the right situation to blitz. Ultimately, only rushing four defensive players is the goal of any coordinator because it is the safest option.


Conclusion About the Blitz in Football

In conclusion, a blitz is a defensive scheme in American football where five or more defensive players rush the offense at the start of the play. It’s a risky play because it generally leaves the defensive backfield unprotected. However, it’s usually a fan favorite because it puts pressure on the quarterback and can turn the tide of a game if done effectively.


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