Thursday, February 2, 2012

Superbowl Preview: Bill Belichick's Blitz Package

Here a simple and devastatingly effective blitz concept employed by the Patriots in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens.

Normally I diagram the pressure before linking to video but I encourage you to watch the sack first. Why? Because this sack makes you scratch your head and ask how does a defender, walked up into the B gap, get a free run in an NFL game? Here's how:
The Patriots align in a Dime personnel grouping with 6 defensive backs vs. the 5 wide receiver set by the Ravens.
  • Ends - Contain Rush
  • Tackles - Align head up and rush the A gaps
  • Corners, Nickel, $, FS - Man to man coverage
  • Mike & SS - Read Blitz B gap
The Ravens have five potential pass blockers. It doesn't take great mathematical abilities to realize that if the defense brings 6 rushers there will be a defensive player unblocked. New England gets a free rusher while only rushing 5 by having the Mike and SS execute a read out blitz based on the slide of the protection.
The SS is reading the block of the Left Guard. If the LG blocks the DT the SS blitzes and is unblocked. That is both what is diagrammed here and what happened in the video clip. The Mike is reading the guard to his side as well. If the guard is stepping toward him he will drop out, looking to cover the hot route from the opposite side. The Mike knows where the hot route is coming from because the protection and hot routes are linked. The offense can pick up 3 rushers to the defensive right of the center with 3 blockers.

The Center can handle the A gap, the RG has any B gap rusher, and the RT can block an edge rusher. The offense knows it can block 3 rushers and therefore doesn't need to throw hot on the defensive right. On the defensive left however, the offense must throw hot because they can only block 2 rushers with the LG and LT. A third rusher to the defensive left cannot be accounted for by the protection. Therefore the Mike knows if the guard steps to his side the hot route is to the other side. What would have happened if the LG stepped to the SS instead?
The SS would have dropped out and cut the crosser from the opposite side. The SS knows if the Guard is blocking toward him the hot route is coming from the other side of the formation. The Mike would then have the free rush in the B gap.
Another factor in the success of this blitz is the Patriots utilization of a Dime package instead of a Nickel. The Patriots could have easily used an ILB in place of the SS and played a 4-2-5 personnel instead of a 4-1-6. The job of the SS position on the call is to blitz or cover a hot route both tasks a linebacker is capable of executing. The beauty of using a Dime package is there is only one linebacker (Mike). The offense is more likely to slide to the Mike linebacker than toward a SS. Bill Belichick is manipulating the pass protection by exploiting the offense's expectation of the SS's role on defense. A SS should be covering a receiver or a zone not walked up into the B gap to blitz.  
Where else can you find this pressure concept? In the Alabama playbook of former Bill Belichick assistant Nick Saban.
Simple effective blitz schemes like this are just one of the reasons Bill Belichick and Nick Saban have their teams in the championship hunt every year.

Be sure to check out a preview of the Giants Superbowl blitz package here.


  1. A DC friend of mine introduced me to this concept a handful of year's ago, but I hadn't seen it run anywhere before now. Thanks for the video clip! A very easy way to get a free rusher.

  2. So how do you beat it if you're the offense? Have to be more creative with the hot to get it away from the non-blitzer?

    1. A quick breaking out route by a slot could do it, with the safeties on the slots playing man. Would have to ID the blitz and zero coverage pre snap of course.

  3. Replies
    1. The Backer to the side of the full line would drop, because the guard would slide to him. backside backer would blitz and get blocked by tackle. But then backside DE would be free rusher

  4. Good time for bubble screen from offense.

  5. Guess I'm a little confused. In the article they're reading the turn of their respective guard, as I understand it, but in Saban's playbook they're popping out on the turn of the center. I'm sure both are doable, but which one gets more bang for your buck and why?

    1. The block of the guard and the turn of the center are two ways to say the same thing. They are functionally the same concept in this situation. The blocking of the guards is tied to the where the center goes in a 5 man protection.