It has raised its ugly head once again. The main reason for the 4 game losing streak last season was Cortez' staunch refusal to counter attack a blitz, and this week we saw a scene all too familiar. Before anyone opens their mouth about Kory Sheets injury last season I will remind you that Sheets PLAYED the first game and a half of those 4 losses, and in the last 2 Garrett only got 12 carries combined and was just as effective as Sheets was in that game and a half. I said it when it happened and I repeat it now. The losing streak had NOTHING to do with Sheets and EVERYTHING to do with Cortez' gameplan.
Now, to start we must understand the zen of a blitz. Why do defenses blitz? To get the QB, right? Well, there has to be a lot more to it than that because if a team plays 50 defensive snaps in a game and blitzes on 40 of them and gets 5 sacks, that would be a very successful sack ratio. But what about the other 35 blitzes that didn't get the QB? Don Matthews said it best. "I love to blitz because blitzing DICTATES to the offense how the game will be called." Blitzing closes the playbook for the offense. There are certain things that just can't be done when facing an onslaught of pass rush. Most obviously any pass route that takes a little extra time to develop just cannot be done without some extra strategy if at all.
So how does an offense deal with a blitz? There are a few things that one can do.
First, you can beef up the pass protection. You have 5 olinemen and a tailback. You can add an FB and or TEs, and on top of that you can crack back with slot receivers. This is one option, and the only one that Cortez uses.
Next, get outside the tackles. Can't stretch them deep? Stretch them wide. Toss sweep. Roll out. Bootleg. Or the simplest of all, let a back chip block and drift into the flat for a bubble pass. Many teams use this with great success. Cortez does not.
You can hot route. Blitzing is gambling. When you send a guy, you vacate an area of the field almost always within 10 yards of the LoS. Read that blitz, slant or hook to the vacated area and hit it on a 2 or 3 step drop. This is probably the most common technique yet Cortez does not do this.
Cortez has one trick - turtle in a big set. Now this would be fine if it wasn't his only trick. Double tight ends with a cracking slot - 8 and 9 guys in protection. Sometimes that leaves only 2 receivers downfield. Ever wonder why Durant has trouble finding someone open? He only has 2 or 3 targets to throw to half the time.
The offense wants to attack the field - in all areas, to spread them out. A defense spread out is weaker. A defense wants to concentrate whenever it finds the opportunity. Strength in numbers. If the Riders want to use 7 8 and 9 guys in protection on the majority of pass plays then they are reacting EXACTLY the way that the blitz strategy wants them to. They are not able to attack the field with 2 and 3 receivers therefore allowing the defense to stack in the box, concentrate their strength, not only to continue blitzing but also to defend the run.
Again, the zen of the blitz is to get the offense to stop using its playbook. Cortez' big set does precisely that. Montreal only had 2 sacks this week but they only gave up 220 yards passing and not much over 300 yards net offense - and only ONE measly TD. I do not recall a single deep pass attempt (read: playbook closed). So even with only 2 sacks, the blitz was EXTREMELY effective.
And what's even more maddening, there's things that you can do even out of the big set to vary things up that Cortez just refuses to do. One of them is the chip and bubble to the back, or any other form of getting outside the tackles. NEVER happens. Perhaps a tight end could ... catch a pass? Oh no, far too exotic for George. That Ditka guy was overrated. If you insist on extra guys in protection, why not 2 backs? They can both pass protect, or 1 could flare out or the other. Or you could run with a lead blocker and/or pulling guards which could really freeze the LBs (who are shooting gaps on the blitz) especially if you throw in play action and counters. You have tight ends? Run off them and get outside the tackle.
But the Riders do NONE of this. All you have to do to stop the Riders is blitz them because Cortez will turtle into his completely uncreative big set and never attack the field therefore you will never have to worry about defending it. And I'm sick and tired of it!
Everybody talking about how Montreal scored 1 offensive TD in over 80 possessions, but nobody mentioning the fact that before Bagg scored in the 4th quarter, the Riders went TEN straight quarters without an offensive TD (since the first quarter in Ottawa).
This will not cut it next week against BC. They must counter attack the blitz and RE-dictate the game back to the defense. Get outside the tackles, hit the hot routes, make those LBs honest so they can reopen the playbook and attack the field again or they will not win.
First downs in the first quarter last week: Montreal 7, Sask ONE. There is no excuse for this. Risking honking a home game against a doormat because you refuse to show an opposing defense who's boss is not acceptable, especially when 9-9 will probably get you last place in this division.
And Bagg's TD is double-edged. It was in fact scored out of the big set. Well thank God they actually scored and won the game, but 2 negatives from this. One, the play didn't even protect the QB. Durant suffered a stinger from a hit as he threw. No disrespect to Sunseri but there are 8 other teams in this league with a better 2nd string QB. If Durant goes down the season is OVER. End of discussion. The second point is that the major justifies keeping this rotten anemic big turtle set. Great. A broken clock is right twice a day - the turtle set scored a TD and will live to fight another stifling 300-yard one score week. Fan-freaking tastic.
Last season the Riders snapped the losing streak in BC Place. Everybody said that it was because Sheets returned. No. It was because Stubler didn't blitz. I was at that game. Stubler's defenses rely on coverage schemes to force interceptions. He should have blitzed. I firmly believe that a big reason that the Lions let him go is because he couldn't stop Saskatchewan even though Winnipeg and Montreal could.
Cortez has the personnel at his disposal to do ANYTHING IMAGINABLE ... and he sits back and lets a defense dictate the game to him. Out-freaking-rageous.
Stop this turtle garbage. Throw hot routes. Get outside the tackles. Show the defense who's boss dammit.