what is a blitz in football

What Is a Blitz in Football? A Complete Guide

If you’re an American football fan, then you’ve probably seen defenses rushing to stop high-powered offenses. There are different plays aimed at stopping an offense. One such play is blitz football.

Blitz football is a high-risk play and one that is commonly used to stop offenses at high speeds. It’s a high-risk high-reward play that forces the offensive into making mistakes. 

So, what is a blitz in football?

Blitz football is a defensive play that sends at least five or more defensive players in a rush to sack the quarterbacks. It is a high-risk play that sends defensive players to the scrimmage line to block the offense.

Blitzing at the quarterbacks can lead to a sack which forces the offensive players into mistakes. Usually, it results in lost yardage and down.

The blitz remains the most popular defensive strategy in football. Most teams utilize it 20-35% of the time. However, the strategy is not that simple. There are a couple of different blitzes.

So, what does blitz mean in football? Join me as I break down everything you need to know about blitz football. 

A Blitz’s Goal

So, what’s the purpose of a blitz in football? First, let’s understand what a blitz in football means. The term blitz comes from a German word that means lightning war. The Germans used it in the 1940s to describe heavy strikes by the German forces.

The term now describes a blitzing attack on the offense. 

The primary purpose of a blitz in football is to allow the linebacker to get through and potentially sack the quarterback. However, the aim is not just to put pressure on the quarterback.

A blitz attack also aims to:

  • Halt an inside run
  • Apply pressure midway to the quarterback
  • Block off a run
  • Hunt the quarterback from the periphery

When defensive players play a blitz, an offense is forced into a mistake and can lose yardage or make an incomplete pass. In a way, the offense is forced to punt.

american football players

Overall, a blitz puts pressure on the offense and stops them from making passes and developing their play. It disrupts their play’s timing and puts quarterbacks in an insecure pocket.

Different Types of Blitzes

There is no single blitz. Defensive players can customize blitzes and come up with different blitzes to match the scene on the field.

Sometimes it can be confusing to know when a defense is blitzing. This is because there are always players rushing at the quarterbacks. 

Whether you’re playing a 4-2-5 defense or a 4-3 defense, the defensive lineman will always apply pressure on the quarterbacks.

However, a blitz in football can be differentiated when defensive players apply more than normal pressure on the quarterbacks. This results in different types of blitzes.

Let’s discuss them further:

  • Zone Blitz: In a zone blitz scheme, two Defensive athletes will regress to the zone coverage while a linebacker rushes forward, taking their place. The offensive QB is usually unsure who will watch the field and which blockers are rushing. It’s a popular play that started in the 1980s with the Cincinnati Bengals.
  • Zero blitzes: The zero blitz is the riskiest blitz where a defense runs at the QB without leaving any player within the backfield. It usually creates a defensive line that engages in man defense. The blitz is quite effective when the defense is sure the offense is running the ball.
football player running the ball
  • Conventional blitz: A conventional blitz involves sending 5 or more defensive players at the QB while leaving a man coverage on the sides. In a conventional blitz, linebackers will either blitz from the inside or outside and are critical to this defensive play.
  • Safety blitz: A safety blitz, as the name suggests, requires the safest rushes at the QB while leaving the receiver open in the process.
  • Cornerback blitz: A cornerback blitz is pretty similar to a safety blitz sending the cornerbacks to the QB. In the process, safety takes the responsibility of coverage.

These are the main types of football blitzes. Different teams have different packages and utilize different patterns depending on the opponent.

How Many Blitz Are Allowed in Football

Each time in a football game, is allowed to blitz once during the down-time period without being timed. 

This is possible as long as the defense does not count more than 5. It’s also possible for the defense to cross the scrimmage line immediately after the play snap.

Overall, you cannot blitz every time, as the limited protection puts your team at risk of pressing play. Defenses need to know the most ideal situations when they can blitz.

How To Blitz In Football

You can blitz by having six players rushing towards the scrimmage line. At the same time, you need five players covering the offensive skill players. It’s a risky move where the defenders cannot make any mistakes.

The rush by the defensive players to the scrimmage line is to put the offense under pressure, therefore, leading to mistakes. It’s a high-risk high-reward play. The quarterbacks also fight to avoid losing a yard or taking a sack.

In a blitz, the coach will have all the six players covering every gap in the line of scrimmage. If a gap is left or a mistake happens, one of the offensive players will run free without any safety.

Pros of Blitzing in Football

When done correctly, blitzing can be highly rewarding. But they can also be costly when mistakes happen. So, what are some of the pros of blitzing in football:

  • A blitz can cause a sack and boost the team and fan morale
  • It can catch the offense off-guard when there are gaps in the offensive line
  • It can force the offense to make quicker decisions than they anticipated which can lead to mistakes
  • Extra pressure can make the offense lose yardage or make an incomplete pass
  • It ensures the offense remains honest when choosing their play throughout the game.
american football players on white jersey

Cons of Blitzing in Football

However, a blitz might not always go as expected. Let’s see some of the pitfalls.

  • The offensive QB can sometimes see and know when a blitz play is coming. Offensive players communicate secretly in audible football without the defense knowing.
  • A blitz leaves offensive players unguarded and, if not executed correctly, can open the door for an easy reception.
  • The offense can also break easily through the line of scrimmage if they find gaps.
  • When cornerbacks play tight man coverage, receivers can make a quick move and open for the QB
  • A blitz can also leave receivers at the tight ends with more room to make yardage.

There are benefits and cons when utilizing blitz. The pros are the main reasons coaches utilize blitz most of the time.

Why Is It Called a Blitz in Football?

It’s called a blitz because of the lighting speed at which defensive players run at the quarterbacks. The name blitz comes from German to mean lightning war.

The play is called blitz to show the striking speed at which defensive players attack the offensive to make them crumble.

When Can You Blitz in Football?

You can blitz in football when you have a hunch the offense is running at your defense. A blitz can also happen when you feel the opposing quarterbacks are getting too comfortable in the pocket.

Coaches can also call for a blitz when they need a change in momentum. There are various scenarios when defensive players can play a blitz. In modern football, various analytics are used to ensure teams have options throughout the game.

What Is the Difference Between a Rush and a Blitz?

A simple rush will involve 3 or 4 players running toward the line of scrimmage. However, when 5 or more players rush towards the line of scrimmage, then it’s considered a blitz.

football players getting ready for the game

The confusion usually comes when a team has 3 men on the line of scrimmage. If another plate rushes, that makes it four players rushing towards the line of scrimmage. This still counts as a simple pass and not a blitz.

How Do You Spot a Blitz?

You can spot a blitz when you see five or more players rushing towards the scrimmage line. A blitz is different from a normal pass, as you will see excessive pressure on the quarterbacks to force a sack or an incomplete pass.


Well, that’s it from me! In American football, a blitz is a defensive scheme where 5 or more players rush toward the offense.

The play risks leaving the defensive field unprotected. However, it can also be rewarding when offensive players make mistakes and lose yardage or sack.

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