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The Bears Blitz


The last couple years the Bears have been near the top in blitzing.  Not necessarily in blitzing effectiveness, just near the top in number of times blitzed.  They'll bring the linebackers, safeties, and nickleback at most any time.  They'll "mug" their LB's up close to the line of scrimmage, they'll line their defensive backs up on the edge, and they'll occasionally run a delay blitz up the middle.  They show a lot of different looks in their various blitz packages, but I know an appropriate saying that applies to this; 

"Don't confuse activity with accomplishment."  The Bears are very active in their blitzing, but is anything really getting done?

In the Bears 4-3 scheme, their 4-3 one gap scheme, each defender is usually assigned a gap.  The four down linemen are asked to penetrate and control their gap, and depending on where the defensive linemen line up the linebackers are asked to cover the remaining gaps.  When the Bears blitz when it's not an obvious passing situation, they are blitzing to thwart the run.  Either because through scouting and game-planning they spotted a tendency depending on offensive formation, or they are simply clogging up their gaps at the snap. 

When run blitzing it's important not to tip your hand too early, as you're vulnerable to an audible to a quick pass play.  If an offense sniffs a run blitz before the snap, and senses it's blitzing into the attack point of the run, you can bet the quarterback will try and change the play.  Many times we'll see a QB check out of a play, then we see the MLB audibling out of his defensive play to counter the QB's move.  This is the game within a game that I love, and something the Bears miss with Brian Urlacher not in there.  Say what you want about him not being physically the player he was at 26, the Bears miss his intelligence on the field.

The Bears are solid with their run blitzes, it's their blitzing to get after the QB where the Bears struggle. 

Lance Briggs, he of the four straight pro bowls, has a career high of 2 sacks in a season.  Brian Urlacher has a career high of 8 all the way back in his rookie year.  The Bears linebackers are not good pass rushers.  The last good pass rushing linebacker the Bears had was Rosevelt Colvin in 2002, when he had 10.5 sacks.  I guess I could channel my inner Greg Blache and claim that sacks aren't as important as simply getting pressure on the QB, but in my opinion, if you're gonna be a team that blitzes, that blitzes on passing downs, you need to get sacks.

Danieal Manning has shown to be a quick blitzer off the edge.  I'd like to see Al Afalava delay blitz up the gut on occasion, I think he's physical enough to get in there.  And while I'm mentioning the delay blitz, I'd like to see the Bears use this strategy more often.  By delay blitz, I'm referring to the blitz when the blitzer isn't just standing on the line of scrimmage, instead he'll blitz from his regular defensive position, or he'll loop around to the opposite side.  Just something to disguise the blitz angle.  Too many times the Bears show blitz and simply come from there. 

There is a positive to showing blitz early.  When a defense lines up as if to blitz it changes blocking assignments.  The offensive line has to slide protection and the backs have to adjust assignments.  Sometimes the QB will audible to a max protection just to cover his own tail, thus taking prospective pass receivers out of the play.  Many times we'll see the Bears show blitz then back out of it at the snap.  When doing this the Bears are hoping to get the offense to audible to a max protection scheme, then rely on their front 4 to get pressure all while the offense has fewer options running pass routes.  Obviously getting a good push out of your D-Line is an important part of this any defensive strategy. 

With the Bears not getting many sacks from blitzers, one would assume the blitzers are getting picked up, so one would also assume the D-Line is picking up the slack.  This ain't happening (the last 2 weeks anyway) and in order for the Bears defense (or any other teams D for that matter) to be productive against the pass they need pressure.

With all the blitzing going on in Chicago the run defense has been solid the last few years (except for the occasional Cedric The Dominator type performance), but the sacks just aren't there.  To paraphrase another favorite saying of mine; "Either blitz (effectively) or get off the pot."


*  If anyone has any thing specifically they'd like me to touch on in an X's and O's type post, just shoot me an email, and I'll do my best.