There are several sources that take credit for the creation of the blitz in football, especially at the NFL level of competition. One source say’s Don Ettinger, a DT that played only a few seasons for the New York Giants in the late 40’s, invented the blitz. While several other sources claim that Larry Wilson, a safety for the St. Louis Cardinals (’60-’72) perfected the safety blitz off the edge and up the middle like a linebacker. Others credited are coach and defensive coordinator Chuck Drulis for his innovations. NFL history books credit the name from the Blitzkrieg, a German strategy of the “lightning war” during World War II.
The blitz is basically multiple defenders that rush the quarterback, applying pressure and forcing him out of passing rhythm. This has been called Red Dogging, Zero Blitz which is an all-out blitz (linebackers and safeties, while the corners stay locked on the edge), Zone Blitz or Zone Dogs. Defensive coordinators can use linebackers blitzing only. The combination of safeties and linebackers, or linebackers and corner blitzes is extremely effective, and puts the offense in a bad situation most of the time. Generally corners blitz off the edge from a sub package alignment (nickel or dime were 5-6 defensive backs are used). The more a defense blitzes, the less coverage they have, and offenses take advantage of that with a “hot receiver.” Some teams live and die by the blitz.
The main objective of the defense is to apply pressure to the pocket of the offense line and squeeze the quarterback into making mistakes. Some defenses can apply pressure with their front four (4-3) or three (3-4), then they dial up blitzes. This is done at any time, on any down or at any place on the field. Sending multiple linebackers, defensive backs or a combination of the two is the key to adding more pressure on the pocket.
In the mid ‘90’s the Pittsburgh Steelers 3-4 “Blitzburgh” defense was relentless in their barrage of blitz packages, kicking butt and taking names. In the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s, the Philadelphia Eagles were nicknamed “Blitz Inc.” The late defensive coordinator Jim Johnson designed a defensive package that took advantage and thrived off pressure.
A stat called Blitz Efficiency measures the strength and effectiveness of the blitz by adding the number of sacks, quarterback pressures, poor passing results due to pressure, batted balls, passes thrown away or caught out of bounds and dropped balls. All these generated by defensive pressure, total those numbers and divide by the total number of blitzes.
Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo developed his own blitz package while the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl winning New York Giants. He has brought his attacking blitz package to the Rams. Defensive coordinator Ken Flajole has applied a few touches of his own and together the two have fine-tuned a defense that is ranked among the most productive for the 2010 season.
The Rams personnel department must continue to add more playmakers and difference makers to both sides of the ball. Upgrading the defensive side of the ball will be the key to the future. I look forward to watching this side of the ball blossom into a beautiful long stem red thorny rose.