Tales from the Tape: The Blitzes

The Saints blitzed on nearly half of Chicago's pass plays on Sunday. After hours in the film room, JS offers an in-depth analysis of why the Saints were able to have so much success using the blitz.

First quarter

-2nd and 9. The Saints use three down linemen and bring linebackers Will Herring and Jonathan Casillas off the edges. The line does a good job of picking up each defender. In the middle though, DE Cameron Jordan and DT Aubrayo Franklin, with the help of Casillas crashing into LG Chris Williams, are able to push the line all the way back into QB Jay Cutler's face. Even though everyone is picked, the line gets pushed back so far that it forces Cutler out of the pocket. Casillas releases from his block, swings outside and gets in Cutler's face, forcing an incompletion.

Positives: All defenders accounted for and blocked.
Negatives: Line doesn't anchor, allowing themselves to be driven backward.

-1st and 10. Bears use a three-receiver set with Cutler under center. TE Kellen Davis lines up in the right wing spot. Matt Forte is alone in the backfield. The play is a counter run to the left. From the right side, LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar blitzes. Davis is supposed to cross behind the line and serve as a lead blocker. Dunbar flies in, but Davis doesn't stop to block him. Instead, he tries to throw him a quick shoulder as he's moving to his left. Dunbar avoids the shoulder block and takes Forte down for a four-yard loss.

First off, Davis being asked to lead block from the right wing on a counter play to the left makes no sense. He comes off the ball slow and is unable to get to the opposite hash in time to make a block. And then, when he sees Dunbar coming, he makes no real effort to stop him. It was a poorly designed play with poor execution.

Positives: None.
Negatives: Bad play design. Davis doesn't pick up blitzer.

-2nd and 10. Bears line up in a three-receiver set with Cutler under center. WR Earl Bennett is in the slot to the right. Across from Bennett, S Malcolm Jenkins creeps toward the right edge of the line. At the snap, Jenkins blitzes. Cutler sees the blitz and fires a pass immediately to Bennett, who is looking back at his QB. Bennett makes the catch for a nine-yard gain before S Roman Harper hits him with the crown of his head. Harper then pushes Bennett to the ground and stands over him, while his teammates throw him high fives.


QB Jay Cutler
Stacy Revere/Getty

Positives: Both Bennett and Cutler recognize the blitz and are able to complete a pass to the hot route.
Negatives: That the referees didn't call a personal foul on Harper's hit, and the Saints defense feeling the need to celebrate a borderline-illegal hit, that severely hurt a defenseless receiver, and cost them nine yards. Stay classy New Orleans.

-3rd and 6. Chicago uses a three-receiver, empty backfield set. Kellen Davis is on the left edge. The Saints have eight players in the box, with three stacked off the right edge. On the left side, Harper is standing just outside of the defensive end, near Casillas, showing blitz. At the snap, Harper blitzes immediately. Casillas waits a second and then comes on a delayed blitz. Davis never takes his eyes of Casillas and allows Harper to come free. He is in Cutler's face a second after the ball is snapped. Cutler gets the pass away but it's nowhere near the receiver. Harper is called for roughing the passer, a very questionable call, one that, in my opinion, was a make up call for the hit on Bennett.

Positives: None.
Negatives: Davis just letting Harper go right by him with a free run at the QB.

Second quarter

-2nd and 8. The Bears have two receivers to the left, with WR Dane Sanzenbacher in the slot, near the left edge of the line. Davis is wing right. At the snap, the Saints rush the four down linemen and bring S Malcolm Jenkins off the left edge. The left defensive end and tackle are picked up. RG Chris Spencer and Davis swing left, as if to build a backside wall for Cutler, who is rolling out to the right. Yet neither player bothers to block Jenkins, who hits Cutler from behind as he's releasing the ball. The pass falls incomplete, even though Forte is open in the flat.

This was just one extra guy rushing the QB, on a simple edge blitz, with a tight end staying in to help block. Somehow though, no one takes Jenkins into account, and Cutler is left stunned on the ground after a no-gain play.

Positives: Front four defensive linemen picked up well.
Negatives: No one blocking the only blitzer, who didn't even hide the fact he was coming.

-3rd and 9. The Bears have trips right and Davis on the left edge. Cutler is under center and Forte is alone in the backfield. The Saints use three down linemen and stack two linebackers and a safety off the left edge. At the snap, all three of those players blitz. This time, Davis picks up the first outside rusher, forcing the second wave inside, where there is help. Cutler has enough time to hit Forte in a wide-open dump off that picks up 15 yards and a first down.

Positives: Davis recognizing his man and making a block. The interior linemen doing a great job of not letting pressure through the middle.
Negatives: None.

Third quarter

-2nd and 11. The Bears have two receivers to the right and one to the left. Cutler is under center, Forte is alone in the backfield and Davis is on the left edge. The Saints are in nickel, with four down linemen and two linebackers. At the snap, both linebackers come up the middle on a delayed blitz. Jenkins also comes on an inside blitz from the right. The front five does a good job picking up the blitzers. Yet on the left side, Davis just can't handle the speed rush of Turk McBride. Davis doesn't get back quick enough, stops moving his feet and tries to lunge at the defender. McBride smacks Cutler in the back, forcing a fumble and a turnover.

Beyond Davis' extremely poor blocking technique, the most disappointing aspect of this play was the fact Devin Hester was standing wide open in the middle of the field from the start of the play. For two seconds he stood there waiting for the pass. I have no idea why, on an obvious seven-man rush, Cutler was looking downfield instead of hitting the quickest and fastest player on the team, who didn't have a man near him.


QB Jay Cutler
Chuck Cook/US Presswire

Positives: Front five did a great job of picking up all the blitzers.
Negatives: Davis' pathetic attempt at blocking the defensive end and Cutler's inability to see and hit the wide open receiver right in front of him.

**In my opinion, this was the play that sealed the game for Chicago. Cutler came to the sideline in total frustration, yelling at anyone who would listen – as if it was someone else's fault he chose not to throw to his open hot route on an all-out blitz – and from that point on, he was more worried about taking hits than he was about moving the ball downfield.**

Fourth quarter

-1st and 10. The Bears have two receivers to either side with Cutler in shotgun. WR Sam Hurd is in the slot to the right and is being given a 10-yard cushion. At the snap, the Saints bring both linebackers up the middle on the blitz. Cutler and Hurd both see it. Hurd turns quickly and Cutler fires the ball to him. Yet the pass is behind him and it goes as an incomplete.

Here was situation where the team recognized the blitz, picked it up well and ran the right play. Cutler just couldn't make the throw. At that point, he seemed to have given up on the game.

Positives: Good blitz recognition and pick up.
Negatives: Poor execution between quarterback and receiver.

-3rd and 15. The Bears have three receivers to the left. Davis is the inside-most receiver. Cutler is under center. The Saints have three down linemen and four other players positioned on the line showing blitz. At the snap, everyone comes. LT J'Marcus Webb crashes down on the defensive end, letting Casillas fly past him untouched. Davis sees the blitz and turns on his hot route but Cutler doesn't even look his way. In fact, Cutler is looking only to the right side of the field, where has just one receiver, instead of to his left, where he three options. Casillas takes him down for the sack.

Webb does a poor job recognizing that Casillas is blitzing. He blocks down on a player who was already picked up by LG Chris Williams. Still, had Cutler been ready and looking in the right direction, he could have found Davis wide open on the hot read.

Positives: No pressure allowed up the middle.
Negatives: Webb not picking up the edge blitzer and Cutler not finding his hot route.

-1st and 10. Bears use a four-receiver set with Cutler under center. The Saints employ four down linemen and two linebackers. At the snap, the linebackers delay for a few seconds and then blitz up the middle. Yet they don't need to. On the inside, C Roberto Garza gets beat badly by DT Sedrick Ellis and RT Frank Omiyale also allows DE Junior Gallette to get around him on the edge. RG Chris Spencer, who could have helped on either man, just stands there apparently enjoying the view. Cutler is dropped hard by both defensive linemen.

Positives: None.
Negatives: Omiyale and Garza getting beat one-on-one, and Spencer doing nothing in support.


Conclusion: For the most part, the offensive line was not at fault in allowing pressure from the Saints' blitzes. Except for a handful of plays, the front five did a solid job of keeping the blitzers out of Cutler's face. It was more the fault of Davis, who has no business being asked to take on defensive linemen one-on-one, the receivers that failed to get open and dropped some crucial passes, and Cutler not finding and delivering to his open guys. It was a group effort that resulted in six sacks, 10 hits and countless pressures.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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