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Rufio's Film Room: Dick LeBeau's Zone Blitzes and a Sack of Brandon Weeden

Rufio breaks down a pittsburgh steelers' sack of Brandon Weeden during the 4th quarter of the Browns' Week 12 win

Jason Miller

This week I am only breaking down one play, but I believe this play represents one of the key elements to playing the pittsburgh steelers: dealing with the Dick LeBeau Zone Blitz.

A zone blitz is simply a blitz with zone coverage behind it. And this "NCAA" blitz is so named because "everyone in the NCAA runs it." It should come as no surprise to the Browns that LeBeau is using these tactics, and this certainly should be a blitz we are ready for.

Plenty of people have written about Zone Blitzes, but the basic idea is that the defense will show a potential blitz to force the offense to account for pass rushers, drop some of those potential rushers in to coverage, and overload a portion of the offense's protection. In the defense's perfect world, the offense has someone blocking no one (a wasted blocker) and the defense gets an unblocked rusher to the QB.

LeBeau is a legendary figure in football coaching history because of his application of zone blitzes and his success using them. We need to prepare for them because they are abundant in every NFL defense, but we especially need to be ready for them when we face the steelers.

Because it is probably not crystal clear in my verbal explanation, here are the things that I believe we could have done to succeed in this situation in a more organized format:

  1. Execute the play better, specifically the pass protection
    1. Greco should block down on the DE #99
    2. Trent should block the LB #94 or run past him and catch a quick pass
    3. Lauvao and Mack should work back to the side with fewer blockers (offense's left) but they won't get there in time to pick up Kiesel in time unless Mack goes immediately on the snap to that side.
  2. Change the play either entirely or change portions of the play
    1. Weeden can check to a run to offense's right, where we have leverage and 4 blockers for 3 defenders
    2. Weeden can see the blitz coming and slide the protection toward it or ensure that Richardson, Greco, and Thomas all block the right guy
    3. Weeden and Benjamin or Gordon can either check or sight adjust to a quick-hitting route. The blitz will leave a numbers disparity in the coverage, which would be open to exploit before the blitz hits.