Cortez the Turtle

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.

Counter attack!!

well...it wasn't a game and a half...it was a game and what...a couple runs in when sheets went down. Cortez is starting to address the real issue behind the innability to address blitz...DD HATES timing routes. He has been integrating them into the O huge the last 2 weeks. DD hates timing routes, and his new recievers are inconsistent in patterns and where they break off...this addresses both issues. What will be interesting to see is if both the QB and WR reccognize the blitz and adjust the timing route to an inside move on them. That set they used at least a dozen times last week...THAT addresses the blitz.

IMO the last thing you do to address blitz is add more pass protection. Hot routes, timing routes, fast screens, move DD out of pocket.

Last season the math was pretty simple on what created success...

I agree that has been the Achilles heel of the offense for the last two years. Winnipeg exposed it in the banjo bowl and it wasn't no time other teams followed suit. I won't totally agree it had nothing to do with Sheets being injured because the thing with Sheets he is fast to hit seams and if he gets any daylight he is gone. When Sheets came back it was more high risk for defenses to just continually blitz because of that. Having said that though as of now we do not have Sheets and this makes it far less of a gamble for the defense. Cortez is good but he is also very stubborn there is no doubt about it. When he was hired last year he was quoted of saying "its either my way or the high way" I can understand he wants and needs to control things but keep an open mind please. In the bombers game and the Als game both of their defenses were jamming the middle and there were a couple of occasions Durant did use an option play where he looked to hand off and did pull the ball back and pass. The thing is they ran it very seldom and didn't expand on it more ie hitch screens etc. I would like to see if they are going to use the receivers as crack back blockers to throw a reverse or a screen using one of the receivers to dump it off to, someone with speed so they can get wide and around the corner fast. Do this a couple of times especially early in the game when the defense is showing Blitz or stacking the middle and if its successful for some big gains they will think twice about it. When you have one back in and the defense is crowding the line and all you do is run it up the gut or even try to bounce it there usually isn't enough time/space for the back to break free. A speedy receiver on an end around or a hitch screen if he gets the corner can do some damage. I still would like a big bruising back (Messam) and a smaller quicker back in the scheme and run at least a half a dozen different things from that package. Make the defense think instead of just pinning their ears back and coming full steam ahead.

well, lets look at this season:

W: Allen - 27 (5.9 average), DD -1 (6.0) T = 28
L: Allen - 9 (7.3), DD - 2 (12.0), NH - 3 (5.7), SUN - 1 (9.0) T = 15
L: H.CH - 13 (6.6), DD - 2 (7), Allen - 3 (2.3), SUN - 1 (2.0) T = 19
W: FORD - 20 (3.7), MES - 3 (4.7) T = 23
W: MES - 19 (6.6), FORD - 6 (6.5), DD - 4 (5.3) T = 29
W: MES - 10 (5.4), FORD - 9 (3.4), DD - 2 (11.0), SUN - 1 (2) T = 22

same trend

I know you lose some of the run game when you are down...this is why that first strike / close game is so important to them. Cortez and the coaching staff know that if they are in a close game / battle of the D and do their thing and grind away and just focus on not turning the ball over and waiting for the other side to mess up first, that they are probably going to be in a position to win. The Bombers came in with the same attitude when they played a couple weeks back...and it was a battle of who makes the big mistake that the Riders came on top of...29 rushes, 21 passes...the Riders are all about ball control and grinding and wearing out a D. When they lost the 2 games, they fell behind fast and were pushed out of their game plan. the D is also playing night and day better now as well. What they need to do is figure out how to open things up when their D slips...because it will slip from time to time. When they face a power back like Cornish, the O needs to put up points.

I think I trust George Cortez who has played a big role in some of the best qbs of recent decades success gameplan over you or I's game plan.

I have to agree with PrairieDog.

Cortez is totally uncreative in his play calling and it is hugely showing. Last year we had Sheets to make up for his lack of creativity, our offensive line + great running back = Good offensive production. The problem happens when you remove the great running back and replace him with good to serviceable backs.

Teams have to ease up on the pass rush when the run game is going, and with Sheets teams couldn't take the run game away from us for an entire game without going all out run stopping because at some point Sheets would take over. Messam, and Ford aren't capable of that in the same ways as they are 1 dimensional runners. Ford is purely a speed back and Messam is purely a power back and you can stop both of those.

So now our offense turns to the passing game to open up the run game again, and our offense is so damn predictable thanks to lack luster calling that any good defense can shut us down. Teams know that Cortez wants to keep Durant in the pocket and have him throw a 10 yard out pattern every time. So teams blitz the crap out of us and our offense turtles and still tries to throw 10 yard passes every time.

Where are the screens, slants and five yard curls that Rickey Ray and Cavillo owned us with for years? Those will ease up the blitz.. Where are the bootlegs, and roll outs that Durant is so damn good at and that cause the defenses to get caught between coverage and Durant running? Cortez is an old school OC who believes run first and often to set up deep passes, and thats all well and good when you have an elite RB, but right now its not working well. We need to do dink and dunk passing to set up the run game and deep passing game.

Man there isn’t a offensive coordinator I would rather have in the league right now lol. He has a real good offensive mind imo, he understands the game very well. Also any OC who has 3 rings as an OC (3 diff teams!!! and 5 rings total) tells me he knows what he is doing.

Sure there are some critiques one can make but lets not go overboard here lol. This year our team’s strength is clearly defense. Offensively the team is clearly still gelling. Give it time. It is not like we are going to miss the playoffs. As long as these new receivers keep growing and getting better we will be fine - also who knows Dressler could return and at any given time really.

We are still the champions and despite high turnover the D plays that way. The defenders all go to the ball, this is a far cry from what we were used to not even 10 years ago lol. Teams are deathly afraid of our defense, and come playoff time in any league an excellent defense is better than a potent offense and we see examples of this all of the time (most recent being Seahawks/Broncos).

That's a pretty bold statement considering they could be last in the West after this weekend.

yeah...9 wins may not be enough to get in from the west this year. no team in the west is close to a lock...ironically, the Argos are the closest thing to a clinch in the league at this point.

And yeah...the next 3 weeks are perhaps the most critical of the Rider's season. The last 3 weeks could turn out to be as well, but there is at least a bye in there.

I really do not think it is that bold.

There are 5 teams in this division that are an injury away from last place. Anyone who thinks a playoff spot is a lock is a fool.

I have to give credit where it is due. It is evident that Cortez put a big emphasis on getting outside the tackles both running and with hitch passes into the flat. Very impressed with the run game. I loved the big play where everyone slided right and Ford made a simple cut left and had the corner easy for a big gain (lovely seal by Fulton). Power was used a fair amount too which probably played a role opening run gaps in the middle. Especially some of the endzone replays on the big screen, there were a couple of real juicy holes, one in particular on the 38 yarder in the 3rd quarter.

If you can't spread 'em vertically, spread 'em wide. This took some of the pressure off and the deep pass actually opened up a bit. That's how to keep the playbook open. Great job with the gameplan. :thup:

Yeah…I think Tino’s big pass to (attempt…UGGG) to open the 3rd scared the Lions…and it will definitely open other teams eyes and make them realize that Cortez has a much deeper playbook than he is showing this year. The 2 drops and out seemed to really dictate a lot of the 2nd half.