Red zone blitz – Explanation perhaps worse than actual play call

Many things went wrong on Sunday. However, it was one play that really stood out to me.

11:04 left in the 2nd Quarter. Titans are in nickel personnel. Cardinals are in 11 personnel. Chase Edmonds, their running back, is split out wide to the top part of the screen.

Above is the play design. There are major, fundamental problems with this playcall. Let me give you some broad thoughts here:

  • All zero blitzes are not bad. They absolutely have their place. From a 5 wide formation, this becomes vastly more difficult. The reason is the due to the way the formation is spread out. The disguise is far more challenging because the QB is on high alert to throw hot. If 6 are coming, and there are only 5 blockers, the ball has to get out.

  • This leads to the next point. Blitzing is obviously about getting sacks, but it’s equally about creating pressure for the QB to throw into a tight window or bait them into a bad throw. Whatever the case, the answer to the offensive playcall should never create a polarity of outcomes which are binary. Ie. it is either a sack or it’s a 1st down / TD. Yet, that is precisely what this play appears to do.

  • If you’re blitzing with man coverage and zero pressure, coverage trumps disguise. That is, fooling the offense that they didn’t see this play coming isn’t productive if the surprise is that the receiver is completely wide open. The secondary doesn’t necessarily need to jam, but they should at least be playing sticks coverage.

  • Further, if you’re blitzing an empty formation, you can’t blitz stacked linebackers from 4 yards deep. It’s too slow developing against quick hitters.

Of course, then there’s the issue of what are you disguising? Paul Kuharsky asked about the red zone blitz (h/t for bringing up such a great question):

Full answer is here:

This is a quarters look. Against 5 wide, Evans position here is actually wider. But, this gives you and idea of the look they are working to disguist. You can see that here earlier in the game, as he has to wall off the three receiver side:

So, what you’ll end up out of this quarters look is Brown widening to the flat, Jenkins dropping and reading 1 to 2 (the outside receiver to the inside receiver – watching for a vertical route). Evans walls to the three receiver side. And, it is then on Byard to drive on Hopkins, albeit with some likely support from Hooker who also should have eyes in the backfield. Nonetheless, if the presnap diagnosis from Murray is that Hopkins is going to be open against quarters, then the new play which you’re disguising should have a different post snap look for the quarterback. The zero blitz obviously didn’t.

The whole thing is unsettling. And, the worst part is we saw it a bunch last year. A front 7 that was consistently out of sync with the secondary. Moreover, the answer you want from Bowen here is something like “it’s a zero blitz. The secondary didn’t get closer to the sticks pre snap quick enough, and the linebackers need to be at the line of scrimmage presnap.”

No, instead the answer was effectively that this was the playcall and we got beat by it. Zero reflection. Zero remorse.

This is just one game. And, this above is obviously just one play. But, it reflects a pattern that needs to get fixed. Here’s hoping this staff has found time for some self scouting and introspection as they game plan for Seattle.

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