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Tactics To Counter Constant Blitzing

by Mike Neugebauer

The Importance of Beating the Blitz

The blitz is an oft-used defensive tactic in FBPRO, and many a coach has attained great success by devising a blitz that most or all of their opponents simply will not be able to handle. This constant blitzing might seem risky and unrealistic, but it's hard to argue the rationale behind blitzing so often.

If the blitz is successful, the defense can create long yardage situations for an offense which are very difficult to overcome in a series of downs. The pressure may force the quarterback to cough up the ball or throw a wounded duck, which often results in a turnover that nets decent return yardage (or a defensive touchdown). If the blitz yields a safety, the team not only gets 2 points, but their offense gets the ball again with great field position. There's no surer way to rout a team than to drive an opponent backward all day long with successful blitzes that lead to forced turnovers and great field position. Believe me - I've learned it the hard way.

In FBPRO, the offense has a distinct disadvantage against the blitz. Unlike real football, quarterbacks cannot audible effectively when they read blitz before the snap, and receivers do not instinctively shorten their pass patterns and come back for the ball if they see that their QB is under heavy pressure. If your QB calls a 'Long Pass Audible' (as he often tends to do when reading blitz in FBPRO), the situation is actually worsened when all of your skill players who were supposed to pass block rudely leave their protection assignments and run away from the pocket like cowards. Most often, this results in the QB being crushed by as many as 3 blitzers before finishing his dropback or making his first read.

In FBPRO, the bump and blitz technique is particularly nasty on offensive execution. In many situations where teams choose to bump a few, or all, offensive skill players, the pass protection tends to 'panic' for a split-second under the onslaught of charging defenders. And very often, that panic will result in one of the blitzers (often a defensive lineman or a player with lesser skill ratings) going completely untouched and taking out your QB almost immediately.

For the reasons listed above, it's little wonder teams are blitzing like crazy and thriving because of it! Clearly, a team with effective blitzes holds the ace card.

So what in the world can you do to beat the blitz? The keys to winning games against blitzing opponents are patience, persistence, and 'taking what the defense gives you'. An incomplete pass or short catch is better than a sack, and so is running for a short loss or a minimal gain. Losing a yard or throwing an incompletion is definitely better than being sacked for 6-10 yards, especially on 1st and 2nd downs. As commentators in NFL games say so often, it is crucial to stay out of 3rd and very long (12 yards+) situations. Also realize that it will get considerably easier to thwart the blitz as the game wears on and your opponent's defense begins to tire from constantly going after the QB. If you are successful at countering the blitz and moving the chains, the defense will be fairly spent by the time you get into the red zone, and the blitz can cost them 7.

What I've written here is a tutorial that will help you turn the tables in your favor against an opponent that blitzes constantly. Listed below are several tips and tactics that will you help endure, and occasionally shred, the blitz. The commentary below is written under the general assumption that you are going up against a defense that is blitzing you a lot.

Good Pass Protection

The writer in the FBPRO manual certainly did not waste his words when he wrote 'AG is crucial in pass blocking'. The agility (AG) rating seems to determine how well a blocker can move from side to side and how flexible he is in gaining leverage so that the man he is blocking cannot get around him and get to the QB. It also seems to determine the amount of time a blocker can hold his block, thus giving the QB more time to throw. Other key ratings for pass protection are strength (ST), so your blocker isn't overpowered by a significantly stronger defender, and endurance (EN), so your blocker does not tire too quickly and lose his effectiveness. The other ratings are also of importance. If teams are blitzing you with very athletic linebackers and safeties, it's going to require very athletic blockers to effectively block these blitzers.

These principles are true for any pass blocker, whether he is an OL, TE, or RB. When you are managing your roster and designing your plays, make sure you get personnel that can pass protect and make sure they are in on plays when your opponent is likely to blitz you. If you have good offensive linemen and blockers, your odds of completing long passes under heavy pressure improve greatly. The NFL adage that 'Any NFL QB Can Beat You If He Is Given Enough Time' holds true in FBPRO.

You've probably also seen other tutorials here that instruct you to move your guards slightly towards the middle before blocking or have them stop and wait for .2 seconds before blocking. This is NOT a tip - it is a DEFINITE MEANS OF SURVIVAL AGAINST ANY PASS RUSH! Almost every veteran coach employs this technique to the point that is ingrained in their memory.

The Quarterback Draw

This play is one of my personal favorites. The trick is to spread the field with 5 receivers, and then let your quarterback pick a hole (run inside logic) up the middle. Set your quarterback a few yards back off the LOS so he can get a running start before reaching the line of scrimmage. Make sure you have a QB with good SP and AC, so he can get a good burst up the middle. This play is most effective against teams who bring their blitzes from the outside and leave holes up the middle.

ADVANTAGES: Because this is a 5-wide alignment, all M2M defenders are in effect taken out of the play. If your opponent has its DL stunted so that there is a hole or a seam up the middle and your OL lands their blocks, your QB will run the ball totally untouched up the middle of the field. From there, it's a foot race with defenders trying to catch up to your quarterback. This tactic is so sweet because it takes the momentum of the oncoming blitzers (including bump-n-run defenders) and turns it against them. The aggresive blitzers are moving straight towards the backfield while the QB is moving straight up the middle, so it's difficult for blitzers to stop their momentum and tackle the QB.

DISADVANTAGES: If the team has the middle of the field well-guarded or there is delayed blitzing up the middle, your QB will likely be tackled somewhere near the LOS and could take a jarring hit, perhaps causing a fumble or an injury.

Halfback Sweep

The quarterback needs to quickly pitch the ball to a speedy halfback, who runs a sweep to the outside. In many instances, a charging blitzer will not have the angle to make the tackle, or the tackle could be broken by the halfback. This leads to decent yardage and occasionally a big run for the halfback down the sideline.

ADVANTAGES: This tactic is very effective against teams who bring blitzers up the middle. It can spring a long touchdown run if the defense is stacking players aggressively near the LOS. If the M2M defender on the runningback is playing bump-n-run, he'll take himself out of the play by charging into the backfield while the halfback sweeps to the outside.

DISADVANTAGES: If the defense guards against the outside run or blitzes from way outside the tackle box, your halfback could be dropped for a big loss. Your quarterback could also be dropped for a loss if he can't execute the long pitch in time. The long pitch also increases the risk of a fumble.

Quick Running Up The Middle

A swift run up the middle by a runningback can expose holes in an opponent's blitzing scheme. The runningback going up the middle should have good ST and AC. The quarterback should hand the ball off the runningback immediately, and the runningback should charge directly up the middle, between a C-G gap or a G-T gap. If your runningback finds a hole up the middle you will gain nice yardage and even break a big one if your play design is good.

ADVANTAGES: This tactic is very effective against outside blitzes. If you have a good OL and the opponent's inside blitz is very aggressive your runningback might occasionally escape the congestion in middle and break a big one up the middle.

DISADVANTAGES: If the interior blocking turns sour, your quarterback could be dropped for a loss before he even hands it off. Also, an aggressive inside blitz could disrupt the exchange between the quarterback and runningback and lead to a fumble. If inside blitzers have a real mismatch over your OL and RB, you may be stuffed inside all day long.

Sending A Runningback or Slow Guy Out Wide

Some novice defensive coordinators cover M2M while blitzing, but leave backfield players unguarded. Others cover 4 men, and leave the slowest guys (lowest SP) unguarded. If this is the case, shift that unguarded player to the outside where he is alone and have him run a go route.

ADVANTAGES: This could result in easy strikes to a wide open receiver downfield, if the defense leaves the him wide open. Could possibly expose a weakness in zone or read coverage.

DISADVANTAGES: Good blitz coverage schemes will find a way to make sure no one is left wide open. The play is largely ineffective against M2M coverage on all 5 skill players, unless your receiver has a real mismatch over the defender that's trying to cover him.

Angled Go Routes

Send a WR or a TE on a Go route downfield, and let the other skill players block or run shorter routes. Give the Go route a slight angle to the left or right. The slight angle will help your receiver avoid potential bump and run coverage and the wide receiver will be better able to adjust for the ball and make a play if he is going against a soft zone coverage.

ADVANTAGES: Just like the NFL and college, some coverage schemes on blitz plays gamble big and leave the middle wide open. This can be exposed by a speedy tight end who can get downfield fast. Occasionally, a fast WR or TE could get past a coverage and burn the opposition deep.

DISADVANTAGES: Percentage-wise, it is not an effective route against a defense that knows what it is doing. Results in some bad throws and batted balls if the QB is not on the money with the throw. The route is largely ineffective against basic M2M defense where the defender gives the receiver some cushion.

Stationary Swing Pass

The NFL Lions ran this play about a dozen times last week to beat the Vikings. The Vikings M2M corners were giving the Lions wideouts a 10+ yard cushion. Detroit simply had the QB throw immediately to a stationary WR on the LOS. The WR would get a few cheap yards and then have a chance to break a tackle and make a long run down the sideline. In FBPRO, this would probably be done most often by throwing and immediate timing pass to the WR.

ADVANTAGES: Gets the ball out of the quarterback's hands immediately, and guarantees the defense won't drop you for a sack.

DISADVANTAGES: This scheme doesn't work as well in FBPRO as it does in the NFL, mainly because it's rare that blitzing teams give receivers that big of a cushion. If the coverage is closer than expected, the play usually becomes nothing more than an ugly incompletion.

Man-In-Motion Swing Pass

This tactic is best executed in a 4 receiver package. Send a receiver in motion from one side to another. The QB needs to get the snap and throw immediately to the receiver in motion. The receiver then begins to angle upfield as he gets close to the sideline. When facing non-M2M coverages, the route is usually a 3 yard completion and could be broken big if the receiver has room to run along the sideline or breaks a tackle in stride.

ADVANTAGES: Gets the ball out of the quarterback's hands immediately, and guarantees the defense won't drop you for a sack. If you have a few of the other receivers run 'zone clearance' for the man-in-motion, you can get good chunks of yardage against most zone and read coverage schemes. If the M2M defender covering the motion man collides with other defenders and lags behind on the play, the motion receiver could also be sprung for a big gain.

DISADVANTAGES: Largely ineffective against a stout M2M coverage scheme.

Screen Pass

This tactic works best against defenses that blitz up the middle and leave the outside exposed. Essentially, the guard and tackle vacate the middle and get outside to try to lead block for a runningback who catches a swing pass out of the backfield.

ADVANTAGES: If the timing is correct and the blocking is good, the runningback will have a huge gain down the sideline. Works very well against defenses that call a lot of inside blitzes.

DISADVANTAGES: Your QB must run away and get rid of the ball right before he gets pummeled. The screen pass is delicate and it is very easy for one defensive player to disrupt the execution. The screen pass is also more difficult to draw up and execute consistently in FBPRO than it is in the NFL, mainly because the OL logic in FBPRO is not well-suited for perimeter lead-blocking. The runningback doesn't read his lead blocks and make adjustements well at all on a FBPRO screen pass.

The "Mini Donut"

This is a little tactic I came up with several months ago when I was trying to figure out good ways to beat Newstock. The WR runs a straight Go route and stops at a 'spot' which could be anywhere from 4-12 yards out (it's your call, based on what kind of time you think the QB will have to throw). The WR then looks for the pass, runs a short step forward, and then runs in a very small circle just around the top of the 'spot'.The QB, from the shotgun, throws a bullet timing pass right to the 'spot'. For optimal timing, he must let go of the ball just as the WR is nearing the 'spot'.

If the defender is playing basic M2M with some cushion and the WR is not obstructed in his route, it's a guaranteed completion at the point of the 'spot'. It has a distinct advantage over a comeback route because the quarterback does not have to wait for the WR to stop and reverse his motion before reading the break and throwing an accurate pass.

ADVANTAGES: The play is a quick release for a QB who is under heavy pressure. The pass is relatively safe and rarely intercepted, because the WR is almost always somewhere near the ball when it arrives and can make some sort of attempt for the ball.

DISADVANTAGES: Because the WR comes to a screeching halt and runs in a little circle, he'll get smacked pretty good after the catch by the oncoming defender. And since the WR is pretty much stationary, he won't have any momentum going to help him break a tackle. The play is also largely ineffective against bump-n-run coverage, tight M2M coverage, and delayed zone or read schemes.

Quarterback Rollout Pass

This tactic is used mainly against teams who use inside blitzes. Your mission (if you choose to accept it :->) is to get the quarterback out on the perimeter, away from the heavy rush in the middle and throw to receivers streaking downfield or towards the sideline with the QB.

ADVANTAGES: Works well against delayed blitzes up the middle and slow or tired blitzers.

DISADVANTAGES: It is quite difficult to design a blocking scheme that works consistently on a rollout pass, and it definitely requires a swift quarterback. The rollout is quite vulnerable to the outside blitz, unless blocks are made with pinpoint precision.

"Dazed and Confused"

I picked up this oft-deadly tactic from last year's ICFL 49ers. I'd give the coach credit here, but he has since left the team and I can't recall his name. If you have great pass protection personnel, this play will free up your speed receivers for big catches downfield in the face of the blitz. The play consists of an 8-man pocket and having two of your top receivers running fairly deep post-corner routes. The post-corner routes must start close to the middle and leave enough room for the receivers to streak to the sideline at an angle.

ADVANTAGES: When the double-post corner is run, the defenders guarding the receivers think that the receivers will cross paths. When they don't, the defenders get tangled or disrupted (aka "Dazed and Confused") and can lose track of their man. (I don't consider this an AI buster because real-life defenders often get confused as well when receivers fake the crossing pattern).This usually gives one or both receivers a few steps advantage against the defender to run to the sideline or at an angle downfield. There's probably no better way to try to gain big chunks of yardage in the face of constant blitzing. The technique also works fairly well against the several different coverage schemes that are used when defenses blitz.

DISADVANTAGES: Requires lots of time, a brave QB, and great pass protection to execute. Doesn't have a very high rate of completion unless you've got some big 1-on-1 mismatches with your receivers versus their defenders.

Quick Slants & Quick Outs

Try using quick slants over the middle and quick outs to the sideline. Most often, these are the easiest routes for a QB to complete in the face of a blitz since there are not a lot of defenders in coverage. The objective in designing these plays is get separation against M2M defenders and then have the receiver move in a horizontal fashion for pinpoint strikes to receivers.

ADVANTAGES: If routes are designed well, can easily be completed against most M2M and zone coverages if you have good possession receivers (high AC, AG, and HA) who can catch well with minimal separation from the defender. If the receiver gets good separation or breaks a tackle, the play often results in nice yards after the catch.

DISADVANTAGES: If you get in a 3rd and long situation, this tactic probably won't get you a first down. If the QB misfires or throws a wobbler, it could result in an easy interception for the defense. Therefore, this tactic is only highly successful if you have a QB with very good accuracy (DI).

Quarterback Pump Fakes

With good pass protection, this tactic may give your QB just that little extra time he needs to throw the ball deep against a blitzing defense.

ADVANTAGES: Defenders can sometimes slow their rush or jump up when the QB executes the pump fake.

DISADVANTAGES: If the QB is hit while he is executing the pump fake, the odds of a wounded duck interception or a fumble increase.

Outside Lob Passes

The idea behind this tactic is to start your WR near the middle of the field and have the QB lob the ball somewhere close to the sideline. The WR looks for the pass at about the half way mark of his route and then makes his break for the ball, trying to get there before his defender can.

ADVANTAGES: Works well against most M2M defenses. The lob allows the QB to get rid of the ball quite quickly.

DISADVANTAGES: This pass is a very risky proposition against aggressive zone coverages and could give the defense an easy interception if the timing is off. It's also difficult to get the timing right when designing this play.