READY (BLITZ!) FOR (BLITZ!) AN ATTACK (BLITZ!)
BY STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Times Staff Writer
TAMPA – The story begins with a play that looked like so many
others during the
Bucs’ victory Sunday at
In the third quarter, the Bengals came with an all-out blitz,
which typically yields one of two results.
“Either they’re going to make a pretty big play or we’re going
to make a pretty big play,” right tackle Jeremy Trueblood said.
Turns out, it was the latter.
Josh Freeman, throwing off his back foot, got off a pass to
rookie receiver Mike Williams just milliseconds before a brigade of
pass rushers – linemen, linebackers, even a safety – converged on
On the other end, Williams went up to make the reception in the
end zone but was yanked to the turf by cornerback Leon Hall. Flags
flew, pass interference was called and the ball was placed at the
Bucs scored on the next play.
“It’s do or die sometimes with those blitzes,”
Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.
Bucs had better get used to seeing
more of them. NFL defenses are blitzing more frequently largely
because some prominent teams have used them extensively with great
Many of those teams happen to be on the
Bucs’ schedule, including the
Bengals, whom the
Bucs defeated, in part, because they
were able to overcome the aggressive blitzes. Freeman estimated
Cincinnati blitzed more than 40 percent of the time, a high
“It’s a little bit a product of who we play, but it’s the vogue
thing to do now,”
Bucs center Jeff Faine said. “It’s
a copycat league. Teams are picking up on it and doing it.”
One of the teams that helped inspire this phenomenon, the
Saints, invades Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. They used an
assortment of blitzes to revive their defense last season en route
to a Super Bowl championship.
Bucs were going to be confronted by
a litany of blitzes this season. But knowing blitzes are coming and
combating them are very different.
Blitzes can vary in how they are disguised and where the
pressure comes from. But the idea is always the same: make the
quarterback uncomfortable and force mistakes.
“They want to unsettle what you’re doing and create doubt. And
it’s like everything else: You have to prepare for it,” offensive
line coach Pete Mangurian said.
Much of the offseason was spent doing that. Offensive
coordinator Greg Olson and his staff spent many hours huddled in
their offices breaking down the details of some of the better
blitzing defenses in the league. They are now putting those lessons
to use in formulating plans to attack them.
“The Jets were one,” Olson said of the team that ranked first in
total defense last season. “Even though we’re not playing them, we
just wanted to study them because we knew that teams would try to
emulate them and do what they did.
“On top of it, the New Orleans Saints and (defensive
coordinator) Gregg Williams hasbeen known for his blitz package. So
with them being in our (NFC South Division) we, obviously, broke
down all our opponents. It’s the Jets, the Steelers, the Bengals,
the Ravens and the Saints – teams that other teams are looking
Bucs received a stiff test in the
Bengals, who used coordinator Mike Zimmer’s all-out blitzes on
several occasions. On one, the Bengals sent all of their linemen,
linebackers plus safety Chris Crocker toward the quarterback.
Bucs had just seven players
available to protect Freeman (five linemen, a tight end and a
running back), they were outnumbered by Cincinnati’s eight-man
Either Crocker and company would overrun the
Bucs and sack Freeman, or Freeman
and his receivers would diagnose the defense and exploit the
one-on-one coverage before the inevitable unblocked defender broke
through. At least twice, the
Bucs made the Bengals pay, the pass
interference penalty and Williams’ tying touchdown catch during the
There are few things more gratifying to an offense than gutting
a defense when it brings the house.
“It’s up there,” Trueblood said. “There’s a lot of satisfaction
in it. The only thing more satisfying is running the ball down
someone’s throat. But picking them apart when they blitz, oh,
But the job is far from done.
The Saints certainly will have something new to offer Sunday as
will the Ravens and others who remain on the schedule. And Freeman,
Williams and others will have new looks to adapt to as the season
“These (defensive) coordinators, they’re not going to show the
exact same blitzes from week to week,” Olson said. “There’s always
a new wrinkle.”
About the only thing certain is that in today’s NFL, there will
be more blitzes to come.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
* * *
Bucs vs. Saints
1 p.m. Sunday, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Radio: 620-AM,
103.5-FM (no local TV due to blackout) Line: Saints by 4