How to Win in Football

Blitz a Desperate Defense
By: Paul Bessire,
January 15th, 2009

9. Blitz a desperate offense: Desperate situations include any time that it is evident that the offense will require a time much longer than usual to complete a pass (like a Hail Mary, 4th and 26, "two-minute" drill from deep in own territory, etc.). For reasons unbeknownst to fans, defensive coaches like to drop seven (or more) players deep and not rushing many. Let me fill those coaches in on an apparent secret: any quarterback at this level can find an open receiver and complete a pass if he has no pressure. Why do defenses blitz? To keep quarterbacks from having enough time to identify an open receiver complete a pass. When does the quarterback need the most time? In a desperate situation. Wouldn't that make those situations the ideal time to blitz? Yes.

Since we are talking about the Hail Mary, there are two ways that offenses can drastically improve the likelihood of a completion: 1) spread out the field or 2) look for the tip. By spreading out the receivers, a quarterback has a better chance of locating an open receiver who has a legitimate shot at scoring. The player need not be in the endzone at the time. Too often teams either heave the ball so high that anyone could get under it or throw a flare pass and look for pitches. Something in between is better.

If the heave approach is preferred, not every player should congregate where the ball is dropping. Put the best leaper in the middle. The guy with the best hands should stand about a yard in front (closer to the quarterback) of the play and wait for a tip. Another player can be on the other side. The most likely outcome of the play will be a ball that is batted from its original destination by the many players reaching for it. Catching the tip is more probable than bringing the ball down from the air.

Go to #8 Return Every Kick or go back to the Introduction for more.

Paul Bessire is the Senior Quantitative Analyst and Content Manager for and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul can be reached at Thanks!

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