Oregon’s Blitz Techniques against Stanford
The Oregon defense has really shown up the last two weeks. In this post I’m going to look at the blitzes, stunts, and coverage’s that the team used to throw Andrew Luck off his rhythm. The Ducks have switched to running a 3-4 defense that takes advantage of the speed Oregon has on defense. They still use 4-3 personnel even though they line up in a 3-4 by having a drop end who can either rush or drop back. Sometimes both ends will be standing up too. Oregon has the personnel to do this and allows them to run multiple fronts. While Oregon runs a 3-4 as a base defense, they also use a lot of 4-3 since they have the personnel on the field, it’s just a matter of how they line up which enables them to do a lot of different things in terms of coverages and blitzes.
Oregon will use a lot of stunts. A stunt is when the defensive linemen working as a pair or unit as a whole to try and confuse the line. Often this means that a defensive tackle will push his man towards the outside and the defensive linemen will pull around and enter the gap vacated by the defensive tackle and his blocker. These will be illustrated.
The Ducks also use linebacker blitzes to bring extra pressure from sides low on blockers and to fill holes that the defensive line creates from their stunts. What the stunts often do are cause linemen to block defenders who aren’t rushing. This allows the Oregon defense to rush as few as three or four defenders and get one on one matchups that they can exploit. Linemen end up thinking they are going to block someone who drops in to coverage and then can’t help pick up blitzing linebackers.
The Cardinal are showing a passing formation on this down early in the game. Tight end to the left who is standing up, two receivers to the left, and a receiver to the right. The Oregon defense is showing man coverage in this situation. It appears to be 4-3 personnel (four linemen and three linebackers) but the defensive end is standing up giving the look of a 3-4 and thus allowing for those blitz packages.
At the snap the linebacker comes off the edge and lets the safety pick up the slot receiver. Since the initial read was man defense Luck didn’t need to shift protection to the left. The defensive tackle does a stunt to the outside to let Dion Jordan cut inside, resulting in the running back picking up the defensive tackle after the offensive tackle follows Jordan. Jordan’s move to the inside forces luck to backpedal, right in to the line of the blitzing linebacker.
Stanford was running a screen on this play, but the mike backer who didn’t blitz kept an eye on the running back and was on his hip forcing Luck to hold on to the ball too long and have a last minute attempt to throw an incompletion at the running backs’ feet.
Here’s 3rd and 9, an obvious passing down. The Cardinal show a similar formation to the previous play we just looked at. Tight end is to the right with a receiver by himself and there are two receivers to the left. The Ducks only have one down lineman but have three linemen on the field. Now Luck doesn’t know who is coming and who isn’t. This is a photo of the ball just as it is snapped, so you can see the outside defender is looking to blitz after showing man-to-man coverage pre snap.
The defender coming off the edge goes after the tackle’s topside shoulder on a speed rush. Every defender who showed blitz on the line backed off except for Dion Jordan and the defensive tackle. Notice how the center and both guards on the offensive line prepared for more people blitzing, leaving Jordan and the blitzing backer in one on one situations with offensive linemen that they are faster than.
The guard slid over to help the tackle and forced the defender over the top. However, this forced Andrew Luck to move forward in the pocket while throwing.
In this photo, although blurry, we see Stuckey, a linebacker in zone coverage, (he’s playing tight on his man since the receiver is in his zone, but it is zone coverage) intercept Luck’s pass and set up a score.
Initially this may look like man on man defense when looking at the defensive backs, and in reality this may be a man zone combo on the receivers, although it really does look like tight zone coverage and the only way to know otherwise is if we knew the play call. You see safeties moving but they are just moving to the zones that they are assigned to and then playing the receiver and passing them off.
It’s a cover 4 and there isn’t any need for coverage in the flats since that would result in a fourth down. Boseko sees Luck’s eyes go to the receiver in his zone, and after slipping, breaks hard to the ball.
1st and 10 for Stanford now down two possessions and they are in a running formation. The formation is strong right with a tight end and fullback to that side and two receivers left. Oregon has four linemen but is lined up in a 3-4 formation.
The WILL linebacker blitzes from the left taking the left tackle’s attention. The right end slants hard to the left and attacks the guard, bringing the center along with him. The defensive tackle goes straight in to the left guard and the left defensive tackle engages with the right tackle and the tight end helps on the blocking. The stunts are key to opening up a lane for the delayed blitz coming from the left MIKE backer. The coverage isn’t totally clear but it appears to be zone coverage.
This is the throw where Luck threw to the end zone but didn’t get enough steam on the pass to beat Boyett closing in on the receiver. The key was that Luck couldn’t step in to the throw because he was scared of getting hit by the blitzing MIKE backer. You can see in this photo that the center peeled off the end but was too late to pick up the linebacker who has a clean line to the quarterback.
This is a big third down during the game and the Cardinal have only two yards to go. The formation makes it easy for Stanford to motion a tight end over to one side and get an instant numbers advantage on one side. The Ducks have 4 linemen in, lined up in a 3-4, and have Terrence Mitchell playing on the line at the bottom of the frame.
Terrence Mitchell comes off the edge and is picked up by the running back. Jordan covers the tight end running to the flat and the outside backer towards the boundary picks up the tight end running a hitch route. The outside backer towards the field does bump and run coverage on the tight end going to the flat and the MIKE backer towards the field picks up the tight end running a hitch. The tight end running to the flats on the field side slips coming out of his stance and the next read is to the tight end who hasn’t yet turned.
When the tight end does turn his head there’s a linebacker trailing him and a safety in front of him prevents a pass. Luck throws a pump but eventually a lineman breaks through and sacks Luck.