Football teams use blitzes to disrupt opposing offenses. They can take a well-crafted play and ruin it by getting to the quarterback quickly and upsetting the offense’s timing. Blitzes also create defensive vulnerabilities, however, that can be exploited with smart tactics and quick decisions from the quarterback.
Know When It's Coming
Professional and college teams analyze game films to determine blitz trends of opposing teams. While that’s not feasible for recreational or youth squads, certain situations lend themselves to an aggressive pass rush. When your offense is backed up near its own end zone, for example, the possibility of sacking the quarterback in the end zone and recording a safety can be tough to resist. Similarly, on third-and-long situations, when the defense knows your offense needs a big play to get a first down, a blitz reduces the amount of time receivers have to run deep enough pass patterns to get the required yards.
If you expect the blitz is coming, changing your pass protection can reduce your vulnerability. If the blitz is picked up and the onrushing defenders slowed down, the advantage goes to the offense, which now faces a depleted defensive backfield to work against. Keeping the tight end into block adds an extra lineman, and he can release after making his initial block to become a target for the quarterback. A running back left in the backfield can block any defender that gets past the line of scrimmage. If the expected blitz doesn’t come, he can then become another option in the passing game.
The more defenders rushing the quarterback, the fewer are available in the secondary. Look to your receivers who are best able to take advantage of single coverage, and aim to get them the ball in position where they’ll only have that one player to beat. A wide receiver screen, for example, can make a blitz prove costly if that wide-out can fake out his defender and race to the end zone. Slants become much tougher to defend against in man-to-man coverage when the safeties are trying to get into the offensive backfield instead of guarding the secondary.
Beat the Zone
Zone blitzes can be difficult to recognize, as they generally start with defensive linemen engaging the offense as usual, then dropping back into coverage as linebackers and safeties fill the gaps. Other times, it’s the linebackers who drop in coverage as defensive backs rush in, but the principle remains the same – the pass rush comes from unexpected places. That provides the offense an opportunity, however, as it creates mismatches where wide receivers are being defended by players who don’t spend much time in coverage. Recognizing the blitz quickly and exploiting the mismatch can make these tactics costly for opposing defenses.
Run the Ball
One of the best ways to attack the blitz is with a well-timed run. A delayed handoff to a running back can create a situation where the blitzing defenders are already past the point of attack by the time the run develops. This leaves the back with open space, and can lead to a big play if he can get into the secondary.
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