I have this pet peeve. Football fans always want their defensive coordinator to blitz more. I have this other pet peeve, the phrase "pet peeve." Who says that?
When a fan says: I want my defensive coordinator to blitz more. It usually means, I want my defense to execute more, awesome, interception forcing, forced fumble causing, straight out of NFL films, blitzes. It doesn't mean, I want some more of them ineffectual blitzes that create a pile around the quarterback and deprive the coverage of personnel.
Let's say you could design the perfect pass rusher. For our purposes, we'll call him Ndamukong Suh. Suh explodes off the snap faster than opposing linemen, every snap. He wins leverage, bulls through double teams, hand fights like a fire devil whirling watered steel, closes with a burst that wrinkles time-space and squares, wraps, rips and recovers. Every snap.
A team starting Ndamukong Suh could conceivably rush one defender every down. One one one. Ten in coverage. And that would be ideal.
Since teams do not have this fabled pass rusher, they must balance players assigned to attack the quarterback with players assigned to cover the receivers, and additional players assigned to blitzing are players lost in coverage. Elementary.
A blitz, as we traditionally think of it, is a sacrifice taken to compensate for insufficient pass rush. Most teams have insufficient pass rush, but that's okay. What isn't ok, thank you very much John Marshall*, is overcompensating, sending the 53 man roster at the opposing quarterback, not scheming in variety, surprise and thus trading throw aways and the ultra occasional sack with huge completions.
The balance, the sweet spot between disguising pass rush, overwhelming blockers and creating pressure while not punching holes in the secondary, is blitzing, but creative and disciplined blitzing.
That's what Seattle's defensive brain trust accomplished last Sunday.
- It deked Lofa Tatupu on blitzes and freed him to move out and cover.
- Then, after baiting that on subsequent snaps**, Seattle dropped Chris Clemons into cover and Tatupu shot through the left "A" gap and closed and nearly crushed Philip Rivers. Sadly, Tatupu stumbled to the turf, perhaps tripped by Kris Dielman, but Rivers had enough and threw it away towards Legedu Naanee.
- Lawyer Milloy stepped up next, attacking off right end.
- Three blitzes in five plays, each creates pressure and all involve only five defenders.
- Seattle sends six on the next play and it doesn't work. Vanilla blitz, overload left, and only a saving pass defense by Kelly Jennings prevents Seattle from being burned. Jennings stays on Malcom Floyd and then does something unexpected: spots the ball and works inside to attempt the pick. He doesn't but it's progress.
- Seahawks blitz five again, create pressure but Earl Thomas blows cover. Crayton receives for 16.
- Not a blitz, but I'd be remiss not to mention Tatupu smashing Jacob Hester into the hole and then working around his fallen foe to tackle Tolbert after two.
- Not a blitz, but a payoff. Seattle has rattled Philip Rivers. Rivers sacks himself. Brock is credited. Not a blitz, but a stunt executed by Kentwan Balmer and Brandon Mebane creates pressure from the outside, and though Mebane falls, Rivers tucks and scrambles and is wrapped. The key, consistent pressure gets Rivers thinking and when he looks for his outlet on the right, Tolbert, Tolbert is busy blocking Brock. Compensation, compensation. Rivers tucks, Brock disengages and the rest is self-sack history.
- Babineaux blitzes out of a 3-3 but Floyd dices the zone and receives for 24 and the first. Lame.
- But all this beautiful play is rewarded. David Hawthorne throws Antonio Gates, buries a shoulder into the ball and forces Tolbert to fumble. Bryant recovers.
Maybe not all of the blitzes worked, but quite a few did, and while San Diego was chewing yards, they were playing snap after snap on the verge of turnover.
More of this, Gus.
*Marshall wasn't always so bad. In fact, looking at the entirety of Marshall's career, someone like Gus Bradley should be happy to have that kind of success, but at his end in Seattle, it sure felt like Marshall blitzed the house too damn much.
**2-12-SD 18 (9:07) 17-P.Rivers pass incomplete short left to 85-A.Gates.3-12-SD 18 (9:03) (Shotgun)
17-P.Rivers pass deep left to 80-M.Floyd to SD 34 for 16 yards (21-K.Jennings).