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Armchair Coordinator - Combating the Cardinal Blitz

On the season, Peyton Manning is 14-24 (58.3%) for 128 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT when blitzed. To cover up for the loss of certain playmakers on their defense, the Cardinals have dialed up a variety of blitzes to help get pressure on the quarterback. They will need to get pressure to disrupt the timing of the Bronco offense, what tactics will they use and how can Peyton and the offense counter?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing you have to know about the Arizona defense is that they have a lot of confidence in their secondary. They call a lot of max blitzes that leave their corners in man coverage usually with a single high safety over the top.  That is the main characteristic that binds their scheme...some sort of cover 1 concept usually with press man on the outside. Sometimes they mix in some zone concepts more akin to cover 3 but they don't think anything of putting their corners on an island.


The one on one matchups are highlighted with boxes (same color indicates the matchup). On the outside we'll get press man, on the inside we have off coverage reading the route. The Cardinals love to bring the max amount of blitzers and trust that someone will win their one on one battle.


Antonio Gates reads his cover man, gets inside leverage and picks up the first down running a short dig. This is going to be key on Sunday. I am almost certain the inside receivers will be given some sort of cushion given the fact that there is only a single high safety and you don't want to get beat in both places down the field. These option reads should be money for Wes Welker especially who has made a living out of being the hot read on 3rd downs.

More intricate blitzes


This is a thing of beauty and probably something were more likely to see on Sunday. This is a zone blitz with an overload concept. Zone blitz is when one player takes the role of a rusher while the other takes over his coverage responsibilities.

Think of a linebacker blitzing while a defensive lineman drops into coverage to take over his coverage zone, or think when a corner blitzes and a linebacker takes over that player's coverage responsibilities. You're switching roles which has the ability to confuse the coverage reads for the quarterback.

The overload concept is simply when you blitz more players to one side of the offensive side than the protection can handle. For example, on this play, the Cardinals blitz four men to the right side of the offensive line where there are only going to be three blockers depending on what the running back reads. What make it a bit trickier than a standard overload is that they use a twist stunt from the defensive tackle in order to accomplish it.


The coverage confuses Phillip Rivers who does not identify the outside corner to the open side of the field as playing zone coverage. He thinks he has Antonio Gates one on one to the corner. This is the correct throw if the Cardinals are playing man coverage because the flat route is going to keep the sideline clear. The zone corner falls off the flat route and tips the ball going to Gates causing a near interception. If you ever wonder how to identify a corner blitz, look for the corner to have inside leverage on the inside receiver. It screams blitz to me everytime.

7 Keys to beating the Cardinal blitz

Identify the man coverage

They are going to give it to you. We know from history that Peyton Manning will take it. He will trust any of his receivers (especially on the outside) to win their one on one battles.

Identify the zone concepts

If you read a corner blitzing off the edge, especially against a 3x1 alignment, someone has to account for the loss in coverage. On the trips side of the formation it will usually mean a linebacker or defensive end dropping to a shallow, on the short side of the formation especially if it is against a TE, it will usually mean the SS in off coverage. Either of these is a good matchup to have. The next level in the chess match is for the receiver and the QB to be on the same page with the hot read.

Throw into the blitz

Players are vacating a portion of the field. If you can get the ball into the hand of a receiver in the vacated part of the field, you always have the opportunity for YAC.

Have patience

This is a home game which takes away some of the edge the defense will have in disguising their looks. Peyton Manning will have free reign to take his time, use false counts, and milk the play clock in order to make the Cardinals reveal their intentions.

Hurry Hurry

An opposite tactic is to run a faster paced no-huddle. This doesn't allow the defense to communicate with each other and it also tires the rush out when they have to come full speed play after play after play with no rest in between.

Have your man beaters ready

Be prepared to use bunch formations with pick concepts and route combinations that will spring guys open against man coverage. The middle of the field should be open for the Broncos to work against the average Cardinal LB corps. I expect to see a lot of crossing routes and level concepts to be used on Sunday.

2.1 seconds

That is Peyton Manning's time to throw this season. It is about two tenths faster than last season. He doesn't need a lot of time, but any well covered blitz will provide ample opportunity to hit a big play downfield.