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What Is Blitzing In Football?

By Bishad Kandel / February 6, 2023 11:08 AM

Blitzing is a defensive tactic of sending the extra defender in attack
Blitzing is a defensive tactic of sending the extra defender in attack( Source : thefootballusa )

Blitzing in Football is a defensive tactic of sending linebackers to rush toward the ball carrier. Blitzing disrupts the offense of opposing teams.

The main goal of this play is to put pressure on the quarterback and force him to make quick decisions. This can quickly lead to turnovers or incomplete passes.

Teams use blitzing as a part of their overall defensive strategy. Some teams may frequently blitz to disrupt the offense and force turnovers, while others blitz less often and focus on coverage. The key is to find the right balance between the two, as over-blitzing can leave the defense vulnerable to big plays.

Here is an example of how a blitz can be your worst nightmare. In 2012 Eli Manning destroyed Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth quarter. Manning, in the game, quickly spotted the attack and called receivers for protection, leading the Buccaneers to collapse in defense.

But if used correctly, the Blitz can be a great defense weapon.

What Is The Blitz In Football?

Blitz in football is a strategy that involves sending more players than usual to attack the quarterback to enforce some mistakes by the offensive team. 

Blitz is a term that comes from the German word "Blitzkrieg," which means the lightning war. A blitz can be called in any down and used to disrupt the run or pass of the opponent. 

The anticipation of the blitz can be done by offensive teams as well. As per the variation of the blitz, the offense can adjust their play to take advantage of the open space left by the blitzing defenders. 

Basic strategy of blitzing used by the coaches in football
Basic strategy of blitzing used by the coaches in football ( Source : thefootballusa )

The history of the blitz can be traced back to the 1940s and 50s. In the early days of football, defenders used to run a four-man rush strategy. Later in the 1940s, the 5-2 defense was introduced, which added an extra defender to the rush. 

However, in the 1960s, safety blitz was introduced into the game by Chuck Drulis, a defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Cardinals. The play he planned was called "Wildcat." In the play, safety was called to be the extra rusher. 

Today, the blitz is an integral part of the defensive strategy. Coaches use various blitz variations to enforce damage in the offensive team. With the introduction of technologies, teams now analyze the opposition's weaknesses and develop effective blitz packages. 

How to Blitz in Football ??

In every blitz, you will have four to five players with you. The most favorable situation for the coach is when all the blitzing players have the same speed, ensuring you will get a defined outcome from the blitz. 

You must ensure that your team gets more than four guys back when you have more than four players in the blitz. In this case, if a defendant misses a tackle or something else goes wrong, the offense can easily take advantage of the blitz. 

A well-planned blitz can easily stop the offense. So to get the quick and best result, the blitzing players must have an efficient way of communicating. 

Blitz vs. Pass Rush

When it comes to football, a "blitz" and a "pass rush" are similar in that they both aim to disrupt the quarterback's ability to throw the ball.

In a blitz, a defense will send more players (typically five or more) toward the quarterback quickly. The goal is to have a predetermined outcome where the quarterback cannot escape the pressure.

On the other hand, during a pass rush, the defense is less certain of what will happen. The outcome could be a sack, or the quarterback might still complete the pass despite the pressure.

The risk of sending more players during a blitz is higher, but the quarterback's chances of being sacked or making an incomplete pass increase.

Why Is Blitz In Football Important?

Blitzing is important as it allows defenders to have a chance to get to the ball carrier before they can release the ball. Quarterbacks are the usual ball carriers.

One of the importance of the blitz is to create pressure on the quarterbacks. The play compels quarterbacks to make rapid decisions. The pressured player is less likely to see the open receiver, leading him to make mistakes like throwing a ball into coverage or just taking a sack. 

The other gift Blitzing gives to the defense team is forced turnovers. The mistakes by Quarterback can lead to interceptions or fumbles, which will give the defense a great field position to change the game's momentum. 

Quarterback being tackled by the defense in the game.
Quarterback being tackled by the defense in the game. ( Source : pinterest )

The other advantage that defense can get from the successful blitz is ending the run game of offenses. During the blitz, the defense sends an extra player to the ball carrier, and with fewer players, in the box, the defense puts more players on edge to contain the opposition's run.  

Sometimes blitz can also be used to create mismatches. When the defense sends the extra player to rush, the offense might have to use tightened to block instead of the receiver, resulting in a passing game mismatch.

Types of Blitzes in Football

The basic idea of blitz is to overload one side of the offensive line with more defenders than the offense can block. Coaches can choose different variations.

Coaches can choose from different variations of the blitzes in the games. But as per many coaches, these are the types of the blitz in football :

  1. Zero Blitz

  2. Zone Blitz

  3. Safety Blitz

  4. Cornerback Blitz

Zero Blitz

Zero Blitz in Football is a blitz with no extra coverage on top of the defense. In this blitz type, all the defender who isn't covering an individual defense will blitz. 

This is considered one of the riskiest blitzes among all the blitzes in football. In this play, there is no coverage for the defense if the blitz doesn't work. 

During this play, if the pass is completed to the receiver in the passing game. The receiver would easily be free from his coverage, and he could just go to the end zone. 

The risk zero blitzes bring is quite large, so coaches only use this play when the offense is going to run the ball. This play makes it very hard for the offense to gain any yardage. 

Dolphins running same zero blitz for the 35 times in a game.
Dolphins running same zero blitz for the 35 times in a game. ( Source : youtube )

Zone Blitz

A zone blitz in football is a defensive scheme in which the defense brings extra pressure on the quarterback by sending one or more defensive players on a blitz while also dropping one or more defensive players into coverage.

In this play, the linebacker is blitzed, and then the defensive lineman is dropped into the pass coverage. Zone blitz is quite a new concept created to confuse the quarterbacks. 

The main aim of this play is to confuse the offense and surprise them by not showing the blitz until the snap. The confused offense often gifts defense turnovers and bad throws. 

But zone blitz also comes with its risks since the Defensive line is not used to playing in coverage and is bigger. 

Due to their bigger size, they mightn't have the proper footwork for the pass coverage, which is a risk to the defensive team.

The Oregon updated version of the zone blitz.
The Oregon updated version of the zone blitz. ( Source : youtube )

Safety Blitz

A safety blitz is a blitz where the player from the safety position comes with the blitz defenders to attack the quarterback. Usually, the strong safeties are responsible for the safety blitz. 

Moreover, the safety blitz is also very risky to execute. The player from the safety position isn't used to being a part of the blitz, which means they will leave gaps at the time of the blitz, which can be risky in a game.

Cornerback Blitz

Cornerback blitz is a blitz where among two cornerbacks, one leaves their coverage of the wide receiver and attacks the quarterback. This play is a gamble from the defensive side as they are leaving the man open with the hope that they will be able to pressure the quarterback quickly.

Number Of Players In A Blitz

The number of players in a blitz can be anywhere from five to seven in a game. It depends on the variation coach is willing to play.

In traditional 4-3 defense, there will be four defensive linemen with three linebackers on the field. And in a nickel defense, an extra defensive back is added, and in a dime defense, two other defensive backs will be added, so the variation is decided based on the game in the field.

 But playing a blitz is always a risky decision, and the more number you add to the blitz, the more you create a gap in your defensive positions. Flexible and fast Quarterbacks can easily take advantage of the blitz in their offense.

How Can Offense Take Advantage Of The Blitz ?

Blitz is a double-ended sword that can hurt the defensive team if the offensive team is capable of quick passing.

The offensive team can exploit the holes left in the defense when players are blitzing by playing quick passing plays like slants and screens. They can also use play-action passing that attacks the areas of blitzing.

Max protection can also make the blitzing attack weak in football. Max protection can be done by leaving extra blockers to protect the quarterback, allowing him more time to decide or find an open receiver.

Another great weapon for the blitz is motion and shift, which confuses the defense and helps create mismatches. This play will bring the defender out of position when the ball is snapped. The offense can take advantage of this position.

Another way to take advantage of a blitz is using multiple tight ends or running back sets. This can help to slow down the pass rush and give the quarterback more time to throw.

Highest Blitzing Team In The NFL 2022

New York Giants were the highest blitzing team with a total of 253 blitzes. Giants had a staggering 39.7% of Blitzes per dropback percent. 

Los Angeles Rams, winner of the super bowl 2021, also used this defensive weapon and had 166 successful blitzes. Rams had an impressive 26.8% Blitzes per dropback percent. 

The moment when Los Angeles Rams won the superbowl of 2021
The moment when Los Angeles Rams won the superbowl of 2021 ( Source : instagram )

The top 10 teams who were successful with the Blitz attack were :

  1. New York Giants with 253 successful blitzes and 39.7 Blitzes per dropback percent. 
  2. Arizona Cardinals with 225 successful blitzes and 34.5 Blitzes per dropback percent. 
  3. Miami dolphins with 233 successful blitzes and 33.3 Blitzes per dropback percent. 
  4. Denver Broncos with 219 successful blitzes and 32.9 Blitzes per dropback percent. 
  5. Green Bay Packers with 174 successful blitzes and 32.5 Blitzes per dropback percent. 
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers with 195 successful blitzes and 31.5 Blitzes per dropback percent. 
  7. Detroit Lions with 200 successful blitzes and 31.2 Blitzes per dropback percent. 
  8. Los Angeles Chargers with 177 successful blitzes and 31.1 Blitzes per dropback percent. 
  9. Carolina Panthers with 186 successful blitzes and 29.2 Blitzes per dropback percent. 
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 182 successful blitzes and 28.3 Blitzes per dropback percent. 

Among all the teams New York Jets had the least number of successful blitz attacks which was 94. Jets blitzes per dropback percent of 14.9 were also least among all.