Friday, September 11, 2009

On Rushing 4 Versus Blitzing

Anybody following my twitter stream over the last week has seen me rant and rave about two teams, the Miami Hurricanes in college football and the Tennessee Titans, in particular not blitzing enough and only rushing 4 (or less). Now this has probably given people an incorrect impression about my philosophy on playing defense and so I feel the need to address it.

First of all I believe that you have to be able to do both. I don't think any team can possibly only blitz on passing downs any more than I think they can only rush 4 on passing downs. There has to be some balance and it should depend on the situation. Had UM or the Titans been beasting out of a 4 man rush you would have never heard a peep out of me all game. But the fact is they weren't and yet the defensive coordinators for both teams did almost nothing to adjust their game plan. And it wasn't just that they were only rushing 4 time and time again without getting any pressure, its also that they were playing zone behind that and if you give a credible quarterback time in the pocket they will find holes in a zone defense almost every single time.

Last night was particularly frustrating for me watching the Titans on defense in overtime because they literally had no chance to stop the Steelers from marching downt he field for a field goal because their defensive coordinator, Chuck Cecil was so worried about giving up a big play that he refused to dial up a blitz. You HAVE to blitz in that situation if for no other reason than to give the quarterback a different look. As it was the Titans were like a friggin scout team lining up on cards and Big Ben responded accordingly.

Now let me explain something to you. In the biggest game of my career, the NFC Championship game of 1999 when we played the Rams, a blitz lost the game for us. We had a third and long and we were facing Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf and our defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, dialed up a zone blitz. Warner gets the ball off, Ricky Proehl catches it barely coming down in bounds in the endzone and we lose the game after holding this prolific offense, whom nobody had given us a chance against, to no touchdowns nor field goals all day. The truth is it was a helluva play by them by both Warner and Proehl. The truth is also that the call was not executed correctly by one guy. But even now, today, knowing how that play turned out, I would hope our defensive coordinator would call that same blitz.

You can not play football in a way where you just try not to lose. Football karma simply will not allow you to do that I don't care what level you are on. It's why so many teams who go to a prevent defense at the end of a game prematurely end up on the losing end of the deal. Its why so many teams who call the dogs off prematurely on offense end up feeling the agony of defeat. You play to win the game, and blitzing is simply a part of that.

One final note, I realize that people love to repeat conventional wisdom but I just have to correct something. Albert Haynesworth is a bad mofo without a doubt, and I am not just saying that because he is a fellow Tennessee alumni. But the guy's forte is stopping the run. He isn't some big time pass rusher, hell he doesn't really have any moves other than a bull rush. Now he did get something like 8 sacks last year and that's great, but again its not really his deal. I know people will want to say that the Titans didn't get as much pressure out of their 4 man rush because he wasn't there but that simply isn't grounded in reality. He takes up two blockers on running plays and that is a great thing. But every nose tackle or defensive tackle who lines up in the A gap gets double teamed in a 4 man rush unless they are away from the center's slide. Besides that he was never and will never be a guy that teams have to account for on pass rush like say a John Randle or a Warren Sapp. That's just not who he is or ever was. Think I am wrong? Look up his career sack totals. Before the last two years when he had 6 in 2007 and 8 in 2008 his previous high was 3. That may not be what you hear over and over on ESPN but its reality and that is what really matters.

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