Last week we discussed a team attack strategy to unlock the traditional “Drift Defence”. It succeeds by identifying the space out wide and either conserving and exploiting that space or identifying or encouraging the defense to drift prematurely to that space and exploiting the space inside or through the defense. That strategy is based on having the time and space on the ball that the Drift Defence allows to execute the strategy accurately and consistently over numerous phases of play.
This week we will look at attacking against another defence which operates under a different philosophy. That defence is often referred to as the “Blitz Defence”. It is the complete opposite philosophy to the Drift Defence as it allows the attack the least amount of time and space possible, on the ball to execute an attack.
The Blitz Defence knows the space that exists is exactly the same space that the drift defence allows, but unlike the Drift Defence they make no effort to get to that space to defend it. Instead the Blitz defence believes it can stop the ball from getting to the space by cutting off the attack before it reaches the space.
They achieve this by bringing up the defensive line as quickly as possible, allowing the attack little or no time on the ball and preventing the attack from getting the ball into the space outside the defense. This is the complete opposite defensive philosophy to the Drift Defence. For that reason it is necessary for the attacking team to react accordingly.
It is possible to get the ball into the space outside the Blitz defence but to do so it requires the attacking line to lie deep and throw long passes which are in danger of being intercepted by the aggressive defenders. Also, if the attack succeeds in getting the ball into space, by keeping the attacking line deep, the ball carrier is so far behind the gain line when they receive the ball that the cover defence (sweeping behind the Blitz defense) can get to the ball carrier before or as they reach the gain-line.
The most effective strategy against a Blitz defence is to allign the attackers further apart, which means there is more space than normal between each attacker. This automatically spreads the defensive line which means more space between each individual defender. This creates attacking space between defenders rather than on the outside of the defence. Then using short passes attack the space between the defenders rather than trying to go around the defence. Because the defenders in a Blitz defence advance to defend the gain-line very aggressively it is difficult for them to adjust laterally to defend the space on either side of them. Especially a space that is larger than normal because the attackers have created that extra space by aligning further apart.
Strike runners appearing in the spaces, at the last moment, on either side of the defenders makes defending very difficult for a Blitz Defence. If the attack succeeds in penetrating a Blitz defense it is extremely damaging to the defence, as the speed at which the defensive line advances makes it almost impossible for the defenders to recover. The attack strategy against the Blitz defence must be able to cope with the aggressive nature of the Blitz defence. To achieve this attackers must consistently attack the spaces between defenders while keeping the defence spread out and at the same time coping with the pressure the defenders exert by advancing very quickly to make tackles.
Getting the strike runners into those spaces between the defenders is best achieved with short strike passes. Long passes to strike runners against a Blitz defence can lead to interceptions by the defenders or at best players receiving the ball at the same moment they are being tackled.
If the Blitz Defence is breached it is often very difficult to recover as the defensive line has advanced so quickly that they are unable to scramble back and help the backfield defenders. Also the defensive line is breached by penetrating (going through) the defence, which immediately puts a lot of defenders on the wrong side of the football.
Whereas, the Drift Defence is usually breached out wide which gives the cover defence an opportunity to cutoff the line break and also has the advantage of using the touch line to help corner the ball carrier. Also, if the Drift defence is penetrated the other defenders in the defensive line are less committed up field because their line speed is slower and for that reason have a better chance of tracking back to to help the backfield defenders.
In other words the Blitz Defence is an “all or nothing deal” as it either stops the attack completely or is likely to be split wide open by the attack.
The Blitz defence was more in vogue as recently as 3 – 7 years ago and is still used by certain teams. But as teams became more aware of how to unhinge the Blitz defence it became less popular, although it is still very effective if an attack uses the incorect strategy against it.
Next week we will look at the “Hard Drift” defence. This is the defensive system that attacking teams are most likely to encounter nowdays. It is more difficult that the Drift or Blitz Defences to break down, which is the reason for it’s popularity. But like the Drift and Blitz Defenses it can be unhinged by the correct strategy.