Why is the Term Blitz Used in Football?

In the world of football, few defensive strategies are as exciting and impactful as the blitz. This bold, high-risk, high-reward play can be a game-changer when executed correctly. 

But what exactly is a blitz, and how do teams effectively implement this tactic? Let’s dive into the intricacies of this thrilling defensive maneuver.

What is a Blitz in Football?

A blitz is a defensive strategy where the team sends five or more players directly into the offensive backfield to attack the ball carrier, typically the quarterback. 

The objective is to apply sudden, overwhelming pressure, disrupt the offense’s timing, and force a turnover or a negative play.

The term “blitz” originates from the German word “Blitzkrieg,” which means “lightning war,” referring to the rapid, intense attacks used by the German military during World War II. 

In football, a well-timed blitz can strike like lightning, catching the offense off-guard and creating chaos in the backfield.

Executing a Blitz: The Athlete’s Perspective

Executing a Blitz

To successfully execute a blitz, defensive players must possess a combination of speed, strength, and agility. They need to quickly diagnose the offensive play, identify gaps or weaknesses to exploit, shed blocks, and tackle the ball carrier or quarterback with precision.

NFL legend Lawrence Taylor, a former linebacker for the New York Giants, epitomized the art of executing a blitz. Known for his incredible speed, strength, and instincts, Taylor consistently blew past offensive linemen to sack the quarterback, earning him the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award in 1986.

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Executing a Blitz: The Team’s Approach

Mastering the blitz requires more than just individual talent; it’s a team effort that demands coordination, communication, and repetition through practice and drill work. 

A good defensive coach understands the nuances of when to call a blitz, what type of blitz to employ, and how to best utilize their players’ strengths.

By sending extra rushers, the defense sacrifices conservative play for the opportunity to apply intense pressure on the offense at the line of scrimmage. It’s a calculated risk, as fewer defenders will be available in pass coverage or to contain the run.

Different Types of Blitzes

Blitzes can be executed from various defensive alignments and involve various position groups. Here are some common types of blitzes:

  1. Inside Linebacker Blitz: One of the inside linebackers attacks the quarterback up the middle, while the other drops back into coverage.
  2. Outside Linebacker Blitz: An outside linebacker, such as the elite pass rusher Von Miller, blitzes from the edge to attack the quarterback from the outside.
  3. Double Outside Linebacker Blitz: Both outside linebackers blitz simultaneously, putting immense pressure on the offensive tackles.
  4. Secondary Blitz: A defensive back, like the lockdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey, joins the blitz, adding an element of surprise and confusion for the offense.
  5. Zero Blitz: The ultimate gamble, where the defense sends every available player to blitz the quarterback, leaving no deep safety coverage.

Defensive coordinators carefully analyze situations and tendencies to determine the optimal blitz to call, making it a strategic play that can swing the momentum of a game.

Countering the Blitz: The Offense’s Response

Countering the Blitz

While a well-executed blitz can be devastating, offenses have tactics to counter this aggressive strategy:

  1. Quick Passes: By quickly identifying the blitz pre-snap and having a hot read (a receiver running a quick route), the quarterback can release the ball before the blitz arrives, often resulting in big gains.
  2. Mobile Quarterbacks: Elusive, mobile quarterbacks can evade the blitz and extend plays, creating opportunities for themselves or open receivers downfield.
  3. Max Protection: The offense can keep extra blockers (running backs, tight ends) in to pick up the blitz, giving the quarterback more time to find an open receiver downfield.

The chess match between offensive and defensive coordinators, each trying to outsmart the other with blitzes and counters, is a captivating aspect of football strategy.

Case Study: The 2015 Denver Broncos Defense

In the 2015 NFL season, the Denver Broncos’ defense, led by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, mastered the art of the blitz. 

Their aggressive, unpredictable blitz packages overwhelmed opposing offenses, propelling the Broncos to a Super Bowl championship.

The key to our defense was being aggressive and mixing up our blitzes, said Phillips. We kept offenses guessing, and that allowed our talented players to make plays.

The Broncos’ success showcases the impact a well-designed and executed blitz scheme can have on a team’s performance.


The blitz is a high-risk, high-reward defensive strategy that has become a staple in football. When executed correctly, it can disrupt the offense, force turnovers, and swing the momentum of a game. 

Blitzing is also a calculated gamble that requires speed, strength, agility, coordination, and strategic decision-making from both players and coaches.

As offenses continue to evolve and counter blitzes with quick strikes and mobile quarterbacks, defensive coordinators must stay ahead of the curve, constantly refining their blitz packages and timing. 

The ongoing chess match between offense and defense, with the blitz serving as a powerful weapon, is what makes football such a thrilling and strategic game.

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