Term of the day: Pass Rush vs. Blitz

When it comes to the getting after the Quarterback, there are various ways to do it.

The first way is the pass rush. Which is simply pressure from the defensive line and in Denver’s case, the front three and when they send Von off to hunt. He is an edge rusher more than “Outside Linebacker”, which in a way turns the base 3-4 into as much of a 4-3 as anything. When he drops into coverage, or isn’t chasing the QB he’s more the pure 3-4 OLB.  If a team can generate pressure from those front 3 or 4, then they really don’t have a need to blitz.

Pass Rush

Blitz is a complex word.  It has changed over the years (more on that below). Currently it has various meanings from coach to coach and scheme to scheme. At times it’s an action by a single member of defense, such as a “corner blitz”, “safety blitz” or a “Mike Blitz” when one of the DBs or LBs abandons their coverage/responsibility and walks up to the LOS and comes after the QB. It can leave the passing game vulnerable in spots, but the added pressure from a player that is much quicker than a TE/OL, can do it’s own level of damage.

There are situations where it involves two players, like a “Double A Gap Blitz” (will explore A Gap/B Gap/C Gap in a future post) where there is a nose tackle on the center and two foaming at the mouth linebackers coming off each side of him. Then you have what is mainly referred to as a “Zone Blitz”, which has a LB blitzing but a DL dropping into short zone coverage so the term somewhat contradicts itself, but that is what the concept is called. All are pieces of that metaphorical chess match.

There are situations where the defense will call a specific play, and then a blitz call is tacked on at the end, which is very similar to the offense calling a pass play, but signifying X post, so that the X receiver knows to change what he normally does.  It’s the same concept for the defense. If they call  Over Charlie 2  Sting Over (front) Charlie (Line Technique)  2 (Cover 2) Sting (2 DB’s Blitzing), so when this call is made, the team has to know how their responsibilities differ from a simple Over Charlie 2, because with 2 DB’s blitzing there have to be adjustments made so a receiver isn’t running free.

Old School

Then you have the old school like Wade Phillips who mocked the media, and likely the former players that are talking heads when he tweeted this last year. Wade runs a 3-4, but it’s a 3-4 with 3 down lineman (DE, NT, DE) and then the Edge rusher walked up that applies pressure more times than not. That leaves 7 in coverage.  4 Rush 7 Cover. Wade considers a “blitz” to be 6 Rush 5 Cover, and a “dog” one of his other calls to be 5  Rush 6 cover, and the aforementioned variations of it.

A simple side/by side comparison of a Wade Dog and a Wade Blitz

The following is from a Wade Phillips 2003 Atlanta Falcons playbook, and I’d be willing bet that it’s been in every one of his playbooks since.  So I’ll edit it accordingly, but I won’t go full WADE and use ALL CAPS like he did.

Our basic defense is an attacking style. The (insert team name here) philosophy on 1st and 2nd down is to top the run and play outstanding pass defense. We will play zone, man to man and blitz in any situation. On any down we may utilize different fronts or different personnel groups.   — Wade Phillips 2003

It’s an interesting look at what he expects and demands from his defense.  While Joe Woods will add some wrinkles, the base concepts should remain in place.

Like how one offense can call a “Go” route a “streak”, and another can call it “9 route”,  coaches have different names for various defensive concepts. Some are more simplistic, some are extremely detailed.

To keep it simple.  A “pass rush” is pressure from the front 3 or 4 from a base defense. A “blitz” is generall terms when someone else outside of those goes after the quarterback too.

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