Football Terms – Blitzing Defense

A blitz (also called “red dog”) is a defensive tactic used by football teams in the NFL, CFL and most other levels of American football. During any given play in football, the linebackers and defensive backs of the defense will normally stay on the their side of the line of scrimmage to cover or shadow offensive skill position players. When a blitz occurs, the linebackers or defensive backs will attempt to cross the line and sack the quarterback or otherwise disrupt the offense.

Since a quarterback is unable to block, the defense will always have one more man available to rush the quarterback than the offense has to stop them. Blitzes, however, are risky, as the defense is taking away defenders from coverage in order to attack the quarterback. If the offensive blockers are skilled enough, and the quarterback can react quickly enough, a blitzing defense can be exploited for significant yardage.

Blitz Definition

While the blitz is often used to describe any time that defenders attempt to cross into the offensive backfield, the correct definition of a blitz in whenever more defenders rush the passer than the offense can account for. For example, if five players from the defense take on five players from the offense, then the play is not technically a blitz. If, however, the defenders attack with six players to five offensive blockers, then it could correctly be called a blitz.

The name itself comes from the German term blitzkrieg, which means “lightning war.” In World War II, the Germans employed this tactic which emphasized mobile forces attacking with speed and surprise.

The invention of the blitz is credited to Don Ettinger, a linebacker with the New York Giants from 1948 to 1950. The safety blitz, also known as “wildcat,” is said to have been invented by Larry Wilson, a safety for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1960 until 1972.

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