What is a Blitz in American Football?

A Blitz in American football is when the linebackers and or defensive backs charge at the offensive line in hopes of overwhelming them and sacking the quarterback or causing an interception.

In this blog post we will look at the different types of blitzes, who invented this epic play and even breakdown some blitzing strategies!

What Does Blitz Mean?

The word blitz is a shortened version of blitzkrieg which means lightning war. This is the tactic Hitler used so effectively in WWII, where he would launch his tanks and quickly overwhelm the enemy, preventing a stalemate.

The goal of the blitz in football is the same as in war. Defensive players want to overwhelm the offensive line and breakthrough allowing them a free shot at the quarterback.

Why Do Football Players Blitz?

Offensive linemen get better and better every year. It is often very hard for defensive ends to create separation and get past them. The result is quarterbacks have plenty of time to sit in the pocket and find the open receiver.

To put more pressure on the quarterback and cause a fumble or interception coaches will rush more players at the defensive line. The hope is with extra players rushing the quarterback the offensive line won’t be able to block them in time resulting in a sack or bad throw.


How Does a Blitz In Football Work?

A blitz occurs when the defense rushes the quarterback with linebacker and or defensive backs. 

Linebackers are the most common players to blitz because teams can give up a big pass down the field if they blitz with corners and or safeties. 

Defensive backs typically on blitz when there is a very high chance a running play is being called or if the defense is standing in a non-conventional formation.

When Was the Blitz Invented?

The blitz was invented in the early 1950s by the New York Giants. They would rush with terrifying linebacker Donald “Red Dog” Ettinger who would charge at the quarterback.

During the 1950s this early style of blitzing would involve the linebacker standing in back play and then instead of playing coverage on one of the receivers he would launch himself at the quarterback. 

Nowadays this style of blitz is called a linebacker blitz and teams spend hours studying how to stop it. But in the 1950s offensive lines had never seen such a play and would often completely miss blocking the lone rushing linebacker resulting in many sacks.

What is the Wildcat Blitz?

The wildcat blitz is when defensive backs rush the quarterback. The wildcat blitz was invented In 1960, St. Louis Cardinals player Larry “Wildcat” Wilson and coach Chuck Drulis.

The initial wildcat blitz would involve rushing the quarterback with the safety but soon cornerbacks were being used as well. The wildcat blitz is not used very often anymore because quarterbacks are so good at reading the defense and have such a quick release.

Wildcat blitzes are considered a trick play. They are very risky but have the potential to completely surprise the offense and cause a bad throw or get a sack on the quarterback.

What is the Zone Blitz?

A zone blitz is when a typical rushing player drops back into zone coverage while a linebacker or defensive back blitzes the quarterback.The zone blitz was invented by Coach Dick Lebeau when he was leading the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1980s.

One of the most common zone blitzes is known as a fire zone blitz. In a fire zone blitz, the team will line up with 4 defensive linemen and will rush with 5 players. They will drop one defensive end back in coverage in the middle of the field while rushing with one linebacker and a safety. 

A zone blitz is difficult to defend against because the offensive linemen don’t know who is blitzing and before they know it a defensive back has blown right past them and is sacking the quarterback.

What is the Zero Blitz?

The zero blitz involved rushing every single player on the defense. This play is done when there is a 100% chance the offense is rushing. If the offense runs a play action and tricks the defense then a touchdown is almost guaranteed. 

How to Defend Against the Blitz?

The most common ways to defend against the blitz involve identifying which players are blitzing and changing blocking assignments, using the West Coast Offense system and screen passes.

Changing the blocking assignments

The most effective way to stop a football blitz is to correctly identify which player is going to blitz. Once you have found the blitzing player the offensive line can adjust their blocking assignments and ensure the rushing player is quickly blocked and neutralized.

This is why teams that are blitzing will use different zone blitzes in an attempt to confuse the offense and make it difficult for them to find the blitzing player.

West Coast offense

The West Coast Offense involves making quick reads of the defense and throwing short low risk passes. This is highly effective against the blitz because if the rushing players do beat the offensive line the quarterback has already thrown the ball and there is no chance of a sack. 

Screen passes

A screen pass involves letting the blitz get deep into the back field as the offensive linemen step to one side of the field. Then just before the rushing players sack the quarterback he throws a short lob pass to the running back who runs upfield, protected by a wall of rampaging offensive linemen, almost like the infamous flying wedge

Now you know all the basics of the blitz in football. Next time you watch an NFL game you can impress your buddies with your new knowledge. If you liked the article please share it!


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