You be the offensive coordinator/quarterback: Dealing with the blitz

In my most recent post for Dr Saturday I discussed some of Florida’s struggles on offense. The particular topic was some of Florida’s struggles in pass protection in all phases: accounting for potential rushers, sustaining the blocks, the receivers getting open on time, and the quarterback delivering the ball on time. In the post I showed what went wrong on the play, as the video below shows.

But it’s much easier to show what went wrong than it is to answer: What would you have done differently? Specifically, let’s say you are the OC who can signal a play in or you are the quarterback with a menu of checks and calls at the line. Your squad lines up in five wide, on third and goal (your team is leading), and the other team is showing a man blitz. Here’s what you see (the receivers are all covered down by guys showing man-to-man).


You know they have at least a possible six guys to blitz against your five, if not more if they don’t cover down on one of the slots at the snap. Below is a diagram of the play Florida had called — a double smash concept. Note that the rule for the outside receiver’s in man is to convert the route to some kind of pivot route to the outside.


So what do you do here? Here is a non-exhaustive list of options. You make the call.

  1. Stick with the play as called. Although they have one more guy than you can block, your other guys should protect well, the QB should step up in the pocket, and throw the corner route (or another route) before the blitzer gets there. It was an execution problem.
  2. Call timeout. You can’t block all their guys, and have a bad playcall. Try again.
  3. Check to a short, three-step pass. Yes it is third and goal but better to throw a short completion with a chance to run it into the end zone.
  4. Check to a three step fade pass. You need to throw it into the end zone but don’t have time for any other play that gets it into the end zone.
  5. No need for a check, but the play should have a “sight-adjust” built in, where if the QB and receivers both read blitz they break off their route for a slant. Yes this read can get muddied against zone blitzes, but this is the right situation for it. Everyone should read this on the fly.
  6. Check the play to a receiver screen. Same philosophy as the short pass — get it to an athlete with some room to run, though this time with some blockers.
  7. Check to a quarterback trap or draw. You have an excellent runner at quarterback, why not use him? Yes it is third and long but you avoid the dangerous play, and if you block the trap or draw right and their defenders are too aggressive, you might score.
  8. Stay with the same playcall, but make a call to shift one of the split receivers in tight to be an extra blocker. Yes they can always blitz one more than you can block, but might as well put on a full six-man gap scheme and force the extra rusher to come from further away.
  9. Shift a receiver in to act as a runningback for a more advanced run play, like the speed option or a zone read. This is basically a full audible with a change of formation and playcall. Note that the defense could adjust too, given this opportunity.
  10. Some other option I haven’t listed.

Now, no team would give their quarterback this many options at the line, but most teams give their quarterback the ability to get into at least three of these. Some (like the sight-adjust) is either built into the offense or it isn’t.

So what is it? You make the call.

  • DrB

    With the situation and given my team’s problems in pass protection, probably #8, or bring the receiver in motion to the RB position to the left side to chip an outside rusher.

  • Kevin

    We’ve always had success with slant audibles. We use a call that gives one of the receivers a “choice” to run a slant or a slant and go (slugo) if the defender takes away the slant. The slant is a catch and throw and the slant and go is a three step drop and we work on it being the QBs decision. If the receiver starts the slant and the QB doesn’t throw right away, the receiver gets back to the outside.

    I also like the call to get one of the receivers into the protection and probably use a slide scheme from there.

    Hoping to hear some better adjustments than this so I can steal them.

  • Co-ach

    For us it would be the sight adjustment. The play goes bad when the #3 WR doesn’t make the adjustment and tries to juke the defender. If the wideout crosses the defenders face it’s a TD.

  • Zach Havenor

    The answer is that you don’t line up in a 5 wide set.

  • Ian

    Bring Rainey/Demps and Hernandez into backfield and check to the shovel triple option. Tebow, Rainey/Demps, and Hernandez are all very capable runners, the DBs backs are turned, and the OL doesn’t have to block everybody.

    I don’t like any of their WRs in must-win, man-to-man situations and I don’t think they’re a great WR screen team.

  • I Like Sight Adjust or bring extra Receiver into backfield to Block Or Audible to a Double Screen and pick the best side that way they outnumber us on their pass rush but at leat we outnumber them with blockers and the ball is gone before the blitze gets there…

  • t

    I believe the QB should always be able to make the first closest guy miss. That was the bsDE/OLB. He could have spun away to the right and had his man who was wide open who was doin some sort of stick route or return route. Tebow was just tunnel visioned on forcing this in for six, instead of taking what the defense was giving him.

  • mtd

    I’d check to a QB draw. If the center gets a good block on the Strong Saftey, and the rushers are going outside, it should leave a gap wide open up the middle for Tebow to truck in.

  • istvankovacs

    almost doesn’t matter what you call but you must call something in this case, just can snap it this way. i’d call slant or draw. if you call a shift, the defense adjusts, so you are maybe in a worse situation.

  • prh

    In our system, we would use our regular scat protection- the covered linemen aggressively attack the 0-technique and the two 5-techniques, while the guards take three quick choppy steps back and read the four backers inside-out. If both of the backers to the left rush the QB, the guard takes the inside rusher and the inside receiver to that side runs what we call a “lookie.” If his man has inside leverage (that’s what it looks like from the picture), he runs an arrow; if his man has heads-up or outside leverage, he runs a slant. To the right (3-WR) side, the same rule applies- if both men rush, the #3 receiver to that side runs a slant or an arrow depending on the leverage of the nearest defender.

    Let’s suppose they rush both guys from the left and the defender lined up five yards in front of the right tackle. RG blocks the rusher to the right, LG blocks the inside backer to the left, the outside LB to the left goes free, and the WR running the corner route to the left would convert to an arrow. The QB knows he has a free rusher, so he has to throw on “3 Quick” rhythm. His options are the arrow to the left or a throw over the outside shoulder of the 3rd receiver to the right, running a seam. The seam gets the ball into the endzone, but if the matchup to the left is a good one (WR vs. LB or SS), we coach our QB to make that throw and hope for a catch & run.

  • OldSouth

    As long as the sight adjustment is reliable, I have a huge affection for slant audibles.

  • I’ll go with;
    Beating C0 blitz or press man-free is job #1 of any offense (ie. This is academic and should be the first situation you install/prepare for).

    That being said, in order of likelihood of use (checklist)
    1) Tempo; no huddle, NASCAR, INDY, SLO…alter cadence. Keep the defense off balance with varying speeds.

    2) Freeze; no play, just hard count them into encrochment to get them to back off their aggressiveness

    3) Option; if they remain committed to pressure in man coverage, audible check into speed option with slot receiver (empty) away from pressure

    4) Throw hot; particulary a shallow by an outside receiver and a flare release opposite of the shallow (run away from man defender)

    5) Rub / pick: mesh or bunch spot to break a receiver quickly for an easy throw

    6) Extend the launch point (QB pocket) by rolling out (away from pressure)

    7) Bring an extra man into the protection

  • OldSouth

    As long as the sight adjustment is reliable, I have a huge affection for slant audibles.

    Another scenario: it’s 1st and 2 from the opponents’ 6 yard line. After three runs, all from the I and all B or C gap runs to the left, it’s still 4th and 2. You go for it, and get a hilariously lucky spot for a first down.

    So now it’s 1st and goal from the 4. Two more failed B and C gap runs to the left. Do you:

    1) Kill Joker Phillips
    2) Maim Joker Phillips
    3) Hurt Joker Phillips
    2) Tell Joker Phillips you’ll fire him
    4) Allow Joker Phillips to call a flood rollout to his non-throwing (left) side, where the quarterback will throw a wobbler while being tackled straight to the opponents’ safety.

    I hope you were watching that one Chris.

  • I R A Darth Aggie

    Give a pump fake, pull the ball down and take off on a QB draw behind #66. I see an awful lot of grass between Tebow and the goaline in the middle.

  • Ted Seay

    #7 all the way — there are only three box defenders to the right of Center — pull the left Guard and let Tebow be Tebow on a trap draw…

  • Brad

    I like “don’t line up in no backs”

    Barring that, I say Fade or motion in another blocker.

    But at the end of the day I really had No Backs. I guess it is better with a runner like Tebow, but why let them just Tee off on your QB their are too few threats that you have to respect in nobacks.

  • Dupes

    #3…3rd n goal from the 7…check to the slant and have your guy beat their guy on a slant and run…
    or #5…you see 6 on 5 and cover 0…simple…break off route and you need to get the ball out quick before they can get to you

  • og3636

    I would go with #1, the concept of this play is to get the defense sperad out and for Tebow to find the best match up for UF. If you stop the video at 27 seconds you can see both inside receivers matched up one on one with a defender and no Safety occuping the middle of the endzone. The play was a good call but Tebow made the wrong read and the two recievers didn’t shake their defenders. Only thing I might change in the play is have outside reciver on the right side come with a slant underneath the corner and go routes.

  • dtd

    QB draw looks like an easy call to me.

  • Tom

    I know that in Florida’s playbook Nelson should have checked to a “lookie” or quick slant. The problem is that Nelson’s defender has inside leverage. Mullen knew exactly what would happen here and I think Nelson would have had trouble getting inside.

    That said, when I have a quality receiver with a height advantage like Riley Cooper on the outside to the right, I’d check to the fade. Worst case scenerio it’s incomplete and you live to try another down. Either that or motion Nelson in to block or call timeout.

  • Nole55

    Depending on the situation, it’s either the timeout or the slant audibles. First 3 quarters, those 3 inside guys should be able to see the sea of purple(maroon?) at the LOS and make the adjustments, while the outside guys run fades, a Qb like Tebow should be able to see it. Close game in the 4th quarter, that close to the goaline, why risk it? Their Rock, your Scissors, call timeout and come back with a better play call. Too may times pride can get in the way of a practical decision, such as calling a TO to get your best players (read: running backs) onto the field rather then use your 5 mediocore wide receivers.

  • Infinite5k

    3 – Slant or arrow route is a good choice… get the ball out quick enough to where the defenders wont even touch him

    5 – as long as there is a hot read you could just go with it

    7 – Tebow CAN run the football. Center lets his man go where he wants and guards and tackles block inside out – they can’t be right.

    In response to those who said Empty gets your quarterback tee’d off upon – I couldn’t disagree more. That’s why you do ‘3 step’ pass plays out of Empty so even a 6 or 7 man rush still wont get there in time. 3 step out of the gun is as quick as catch and throw – the only way Tebow gets hit is if the lineman let an inside rusher free in which case all linemen should know to protect the inside first. Florida is mixing up their formations and giving their opponent several different looks. Empty is also an easy formation for a quarterback to check to his run possibilities (like in this one)… Tebow clearly should have checked out of it.

  • brandon


    i want the slot wr on the left side (blitz) to recognize the slant is there. if he cant get off the cb or another guy drops to zone i know i have a fade/corner option against man coverage on the backside where i go to next.

    in this case where the QB cant step into the throw due to blitz, just take the sack, unless you can get away and run it in. you have the lead and are in FG range. no need to make a dumb mistake

  • CoachCommander

    I tend to agree with Seay; check to a QB run (7). He’s a well respected football mind. Love his document SST: Shotgun Spread Tactics.

    If you don’t make it, you can run it down and kick the FG or, hell, go for it if it’s close to the marker and the clock running out in the second half.

    If this has been attempted earlier in the game, however, there needs to be another option (11), so here is one that is not on the list:

    There needs to be a built-in call to motion H or F into a pass protection position, either into the backfield (probably the best position), or into a wing left position so that you can protect with 6.

    Spread coaches go overboard with sending receivers out into patterns, yet balk when their 5 man protections are overrun.

  • scottie2hottie

    Any of these options are acceptable, what is not acceptable is forcing the wrong play against that defense esp when you don’t have wideouts who can be counted on to go up and beat their man in man coverage. The least complicated options are the quick slant, in this play the left slot is uncovered, easy score, or the Tebow run, Tebow is your best player, let him do what he does best, run, as opposed to forcing a throw.

  • Bill Mountjoy

    What the “OC” of the Steelers – Bruce Arians – says:

    “Concepts in picking up the Zone Blitz”:

    Attacking the Zone Blitz

    Every year we all come up with “new” and improved ways to out-attack our opponents. The zone blitz of the 1990s is one such defensive innovation that has created havoc for quarterbacks at all levels. Historically, QBs have been taught to pre-snap read safeties to alert themselves of the potential of a “dog” (LB) or blitz (DB). The difficulty caused by the zone blitz is that effective use of the package does not allow the QB to trust any pre-snap gathering of information by alignment, making him a totally reactive player and essentially putting him on the defensive.

    Coaches must have excellent research and prep on what our opponents do by formation, tendencies, and personnel. As we prepare our game plans, our job is to arm the QB with the knowledge necessary to “attack the defense,” rather than sit back and be attacked. Providing our QBs with a thorough idea of what coverages an opponent’s defense will be in, their intentions, and tendencies in specific situations vs. specific formations, is the key to counter-attacking. The following are some examples of zone dogs and blitzes.

    Offenses during the ’70s and ’80s had the tendency to free release four or five receivers, with the QB responsible for handling a “hot” LB or DB, and with a sight adjustment by a receiver or a built-in quick receiver route. Too often with the use of the zone blitz, the defense is able to trap the “hot” receiver – exposing the quarterback to being hit hard and often.

    When an offense free-releases three receivers to the strength of the formation, the defense can create and trap the hot receiver, TE or TB. By showing a two-deep alignment, the QB has no pre-snap read for the two-man blitz or dog. The strong safety (linebacker) takes away the flat-breaking route and the weakside LB runs to the TE look-in route, forcing the QB to throw away the ball or eat it.

    Vs. the one-back offense with four free receivers, the Cover two zone dog creates a “hot” one side or the other, with a DL and corner trap on the in- or out-breaking receiver.

    Sometimes the best way to beat a new scheme is to look back at the past. That’s where being true students of the game comes into play. We need to re-examine the old playbooks of the ’60s and review the plays that called for backs and receivers to “check release” – still allowing the QB five potential receivers, but protecting him from seven defenders. These can be very effective vs. the zone blitz.

    Offensively, we need to take a look in the past and give the QB protection, then release our five receivers.

    Once we protect the QB, we can now exploit the big holes in the zone defense.

    All that is left is deploy your receivers in places that are good vs. the dog or blitz, and, also, will work vs. coverage employed. But that’s another story. Remember, never lose the attack mode on offense.

  • Check left #2 receiver to a middle to a post. If he’s covered, throw high so only he can catch it or it’s out of bounds and kick the field goal. Same result as if the draw doesn’t reach the end zone. Depends on the clock, too. Do you want it running, then check to the draw.


  • RtownCoacher

    As OC I believe the qb should check his hot route here. Likely the seam from #3 receiver on the right. This seam would be thrown into the endzone. Must be incomplete or TD. Gotta get at least 3 points here.

  • CP3O

    I would run a rub route w/ the 2 guys to the left and run a reverse whip route with #3 to the right or a stick route with the # 3.

  • Jason

    Short field, I check to a 3 step. Slant is okay if DB has outside leverage, Fade if inside leverage. One play we run that can work against man is our swing pass, with #1 WR running a post and #2 WR rubbing off him on a swing route. If the DBs are tight enough, it is as close to a pick as you might want and will get you the separation you need to get it out there quick.

    Truthfully I prefer a runner in the backfield that close to the goaline, just to keep them honest. I know Tebow can run, but not every team has a Tebow.

  • Adam Carter

    I know Tebow’s left-handed, but would a sprint right option not be viable there? Sprint right, have the seam receiver run the corner route, have the inside receiver run a quick out, and have the outside receiver cross underneath to clear the out route. You read Out to Corner, or tuck it.

  • Shaz

    (1)Line up in a 3×1
    (2)Give single WR (Hernandez?) a slant/fade option depending on CB leverage
    (3)To 3 WR side-#1 runs slant right under goal post, #2 runs a pivot route, #3 runs an arrow
    (4)Tebow has option to look either way depending on matchup he likes
    (5)Check QB trap to backside

  • MattyBoy

    I audible to bring inside slot from rt side of formation across the formation –and then 3 step drop the left flat.

  • coach mike

    Hit the inside wr to the right side if the safety scitters up and blitzes, thats why he’s running that go down the center. Check to the slant as a hot by the #1 WR to the right. That slant should be really shallow, right at the LB that is blitzing. The rest of the pro slides to the left. The defender on #2 runs with the corner and vacates the area for the slant.

  • frank

    I would stick with the play. The strong safety is in pack pedal mode and the free safety is too far inside to man up the inside trips receiver. Looks like zone. Try for the corners or throw it away.

  • Marion

    How about just throw it to the man who is open. If you are too off-balance to throw to the right, don’t throw into a crowd. Better off to eat it, throw away, or run for position. If you think you can throw, go to the side with 3 wide outs and the under is most likely open quick in a blitz. If the QB can’t get the short back side (for a lefty) route in this type situation, it is best to know this and have something called for this, like the screen or slant and have it to be where you have him look for it after giving a look away.
    The defense knew that Tebow was not going to throw to him, so they left the wideout standing there with his hands open. This player is wasted in that 1. he drew nobody away to open the rest of the field, 2.He is in a position where the QB never sees him open nor will he be able to throw to him in the blitz 3. he can’t block anyone to help in any circumstance in the play(well, if Tebow broke the pocket and ran…)

  • gduggan

    Quick screen to the right