The Packers were victorious for the second week in a row after they defeated the rival Minnesota Vikings, 21-16.
As a defensive football enthusiast, I was paying close attention to the Packers defense throughout the game and the calls that Pettine had. My personal defensive philosophy has always been that successful defenses confuse the front 5 offensive linemen and never let the quarterback set his feet. Knowing when to call a well-timed blitz can accomplish just that.
When I first started breaking down Packers film, I learned the Dom Capers defense inside and out. He was a coach who used so many different looks up front and sent constant pressure. You would see him run blitzes at offenses like they were going out of style. The biggest difference between Mike Pettine and Dom Capers is that Pettine knows when to call a blitz. Situational football is key in defense.
Pettine, for the most part, hasn’t blitzed a ton these first two weeks. Before we dive into the tape, I think it’s important that we establish what actually constitutes what a blitz is. To me, a blitz is sending as many or more players than the offense can account for. Other analysts and coaches may call a blitz sending more than three. For others, it might be sending a linebacker or a defensive back. When I say that Pettine hasn’t blitzed much I really mean that he hasn’t sent much five man pressure. Personally, I think if you can get it done with 4 rushers than get it done. He does send pressure on certain downs, as we’ll see here, but he makes them count. That’s the biggest thing that I love about Mike Pettine’s coaching philosophy.
This was one of my favorite blitz calls of the week. Disguising rushers is huge when it comes to sending a good blitz. Notice how one rusher is at linebacker depth. There’s no tip-off to the offense. If you’re a quarterback and look at this front, you can initially tell who’s rushing. It’s usually a player with his hand in the dirt or in a staggered two-point stance. I never like to creep players forward during a blitz because I don’t want the offense to know who’s rushing.
Notice the pressure by Amos from the short side of the formation. He’s lined up on the numbers but is going to shoot the B gap. Smith is going to rush on the edge, occupying the tackle. There is pressure coming from the A gap as well, leaving Amos to stick his nose in the B gap. It’s designed well, but Minnesota reacts nicely with six-man protection.
Here’s the same blitz from the end zone camera. Again, three players have their hand in the dirt, others are staggered and moving around presnap. I can’t get over how crucial that is for defenses. As Packer fans, we all know how well a predictable, vanilla defense goes over. Initially, this looks like it will be an overload blitz with Clark, Martinez, Smith, and Fackrell lined up to the wide side. As you can see, both Smith and Fackrell bail at the snap, and short side pressure is ran on the other side. I like seeing the blitz come from the short side of the formation. It’s a shorter distance to rush but there is always the threat of the quarterback scrambling to the wide side.
Who else remembers Dom Capers dog rush blitz? The dog rush is a five man rush, playing man coverage behind it. The Packers start out in an okie front. In an okie, both defensive ends will be playing in 4 techniques, which is head up with the tackles. Lancaster has shaded just a touch inside the tackle, but that could also be because of this blitz.
Notice both Lancaster and Lowry pinch the B gaps with Clark looking to loop stunt. In this blitz, they have to almost earhole the offensive guard. One reason I love this front is because of the angles it gives the defensive ends. They are in a good position to pinch the gap and take a good angle against the guard. 4 techniques also are a good way to confuse the offensive line. They don’t know whether they are pinching inside, slanting outside, or bull rushing straight ahead. Head-up fronts can be tough to play, but very effective.
I can’t say for sure, but it looks like Kenny Clark is wanting to run a loop stunt after the snap. In the blitz, he would loop and come off of the edge. He can’t get through cleanly, so it’s a bust there. However, I still really like this blitz. It’s a good way to keep the defense on their toes.
Here’s another five man pressure look, only this time out of the under front, which simply means that the nose man (Clark) is shaded to the strong side of the offensive formation, which in this case is the wide side of the field.
The blitz itself is pretty simple, with each player going in the gap they are lined up in. The only twist to this is that Za’Darius Smith is going to loop inside in the B gap. Lowry must act almost as a blocker here, occupying the block to free up Smith. Even if Smith is one on one with the guard, I like his chances. The pressure doesn’t quite get there against this three-step drop, but I’m wanting to focus on the blitzes themselves, not particularly the outcome of the play.
I noticed several “green light” blitzes from the Packers so far this year. A green light blitz is simply pressure by a player who’s key stayed in to block. After the play-action look by the Vikings offense, the back stays in to block. B.J. Goodson, who was his key in this cover 1 look, got the “green light” to rush the passer. Notice the moment he realizes the back stays in to block. He stutter steps and then hits the gap at full speed. It’s a nice wrinkle to a defense and it allows them to get more pressure on passing plays.
Looking at the end zone camera, it is easy to see why any defensive coordinator would love to throw this look into the mix. It doesn’t hurt them at all in coverage and a player can come free on the rush. Watch the back try and help on the Smith rush, leaving Goodson all alone. Another positive about the green light blitz is that it leaves blockers unaware of the rush. The back had no idea that Goodson was rushing. He’s able to get to the quarterback and get in on the play, which ultimately forces a fumble.
I think the Packers have done a great job thus far when it comes to the blitz game. Again, the thing I like the most is that Pettine knows when to blitz as opposed to how many times he can blitz. Defensive football doesn’t have to be difficult. I think that is what Mike Pettine has really succeeded at. He’s simplified his defense so that players can play quickly and more effectively. With blitzes like this, its a start to what could be a very dangerous defense.
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