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


Bucs quarterback.

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

1. The

Bucs scored on the next play.

“It’s do or die sometimes with those blitzes,”

Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.

And the

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.

Clearly, the

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.

Because the

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

fourth quarter.

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,

that’s fun.”

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

* * *

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