McDermott Knows Risk Of Blitz

The Eagles love to blitz but no quarterback in the NFL beats the blitz as well as Aaron Rodgers. That sets up a big-time cat-and-mouse game for Sunday's playoff game in Philadelphia.

To blitz or not to blitz.

That is the question confronting Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott leading up to Sunday's playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.

If Dom Capers is one of the blitzing gurus among coordinators of 3-4 defenses, then the late Jim Johnson held that same title among coordinators of 4-3 schemes. The 36-year-old McDermott cut his teeth under Johnson.

McDermott wants to blitz the quarterback. He practically has to, considering the circumstances. The Eagles ranked 10th in the league with 39 sacks but 24 of those came in the first eight games and just 15 came in the last eight. His secondary has been picked apart to the tune of a 30th-ranked 31 touchdown passes, with starting corner Ellis Hobbs on injured reserve and ballhawking Asante Samuel apparently healthy but having missed six games because of his knee.

Problem is, Aaron Rodgers kills blitzes because of his smarts, quick release, quality receivers and the plan of attack authored each week by quarterbacks coach Tom Clements.

This season, he's posted a league-best 104.5 passer rating against blitzes, according to STATS, with 66.5 percent accuracy (111-of-167), 1,503 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. That's on the heels of 2009, when only Drew Brees was better against the blitz, with Rodgers completing 69.4 percent of his passes (125-180) for 1,699 yards, with 11 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 112.7 rating.

"I don't think there is (a better quarterback against the blitz)," McDermott told reporters in Philadelphia on Thursday. "When we faced him the first week, they did a great job and the credit goes to their offensive line, as well. And it's spread around to their receivers because they get open and they get open fast and he distributes the ball extremely well and fast."

Because of that, McDermott played mostly coverage against Rodgers when the teams met in Week 1. Rodgers estimated that the Eagles blitzed only 20 percent of the time, which started something of a trend this year in that the Packers would work against a defense's blitzing tendencies only to see a rather vanilla approach on Sundays.

"It's been surprising at times," Rodgers said on Wednesday. "I just think that a lot of teams have decided it's better to play us coverage and spy me. You look at Atlanta, they hardly brought any pressure. They dropped eight, one of the guys was spying me pretty directly. But you look at a number of the games, that's what happened. Teams were more worried about me dealing the ball quickly when they were having pressure than just sitting back and playing some sort of coverage."

When the teams met in Week 1, McDermott's approach worked well. Rodgers was 16-of-22 for 129 yards, with one touchdown, one interception and one clock-killing spike in the first half. In the second half, though, Rodgers was 3-of-9 for 59 yards with one touchdown and an interception in which the ball slipped out of his hand. After the game, Rodgers said he played "terrible" and "missed a lot of throws that I make in my sleep."

Even with the Eagles' success in that game, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin on Thursday predicted that the Eagles would come with pressure.

"Well, you know, it just becomes a part of the game plan," McDermott said of blitzing. "W have to keep that in mind and we're always going to blitz. It's not going to be whether the Eagles are going to blitz. We're always going to blitz and it's just a matter of how much we blitz and in what situations. They do a great job offensively, Rodgers isn't the only one, but the coaches dial up the right plays at the right time. The coaching staff has been together for a long time and very few defenses have been able to shut this offense down."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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