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Let’s Talk Football: Protecting Against a Double A-Gap Blitz

By Coach Tom Bass Thu, 06/24/2010 - 7:41am

Each week Coach Bass brings his 30 years of NFL coaching experience to USA Football. Email Coach Bass your question.

Rod sent the following question:

What play does one call when two inside linebackers blitz the A gaps? Or, is there a rule for the linemen to pick up the two linebackers? I have witnessed defenses that have blitzed their LB from a 50 and 4-3 look. I appreciate your guidance.

Hi Rodney,

This type of blitz can be a challenge if you do not have your blocking rules to account for all the players. In an even man front defense, if you have one guard first start with the inside gap and the center start with gap away, then you at least have a helmet on any blitzing linebacker. If two backers come in either A gap, you will have them blocked.

In a 50 defense, the center may be occupied with the nose so only the guard on the play side can block the inside gap to begin with, but you may find that you need to have the off-side guard have an inside gap rule also.

As far as plays you can use to attack this type of blitz, you can start with a quick trap on one of the linebackers. The center would block the other backer, and the guard would pull and short trap the other backer who is blitzing across the line of scrimmage.

Moving to the outside, you can run an option, pitch or quick toss to get the ball away from the blitzing backers and in position to make some yards.

Passing can be another challenge in setting up your protection. One way is to block the five offensive linemen right or left and have a back or tight end stay in and block on the side away from the offensive line's block. This type of blocking can be used with a movement pass [roll out - sprint] or with a drop-back pass.

Another way is to run a play-action pass and have one of the backs faking the run picking up the blitzing backer in the A gap to the side of the fake. The center will then block back and pick up the blitzing backer on the other side leaving the guards and tackles free to block the defensive linemen as the quarterback sets up to pass.

Your quick three-step drop passing can also be effective, where the entire line blocks inside on the snap and both backs divide to block to the outside. Here you can throw a four-yard hitch, slant or quick out to either wide receiver or a look in pass to the tight end. Make sure the quarterback knows to get the ball released right away.

Your team will become confident against this style of defense once your players know who has the responsibility to pick up the blitzing backer and have the opportunity to practice the blocks for your offensive plays.

When you face a team that uses this style of double A-gap blitz, you may want to limit your offense during the first quarter so that you do not end up trying to run plays that do not account for positive blocking on both blitzing backers.

It is important that you present this situation as a challenge, one where you have the advantage and not a huge problem that is going to stop your offense cold. Be positive in your presentation and teach it as an integral part of the offensive package.

Coach Tom Bass

Nathan sent the following question:

What ways could you utilize the Bears' 46 defense without being so vulnerable to the big plays deep middle and in the seam?

Hi Bill,

Basically when you play a true Bears defense, you will be playing a great deal of man-to-man coverage. Your corners have to be great cover people. Often you will be put in situations where the two corners will not have any deep middle help so it is important that they play inside technique on any wide receiver.

They do not necessarily have to line up on the inside of the receiver prior to the snap; they can backpedal at an angle to get inside as they drop. Obviously with young players, you should start them with inside position and then drill them to angle backpedal to maintain this position regardless of what the route the wide receiver runs.

If the corners are skilled enough, you can have them play bump-and-run by lining up on the inside shoulder of the wide receiver at a 45-degree angle to the outside with the wide receiver's inside leg even with the mid-line of the corner's body.

The corner can then get a bump on the receiver if he drives straight ahead or comes to the inside, or he can run with the receiver if he releases to the outside. As he runs up the field, he should keep the center of his chest even with the inside shoulder of the receiver.

This style of play can limit the number of pass patterns the wide receiver can run and often will disrupt the timing of the pass. The success of the coverage is not only based on the play of the corner but also must be accompanied with hard pressure on the quarterback.

The middle of the field must be guarded by the safety, whether free or strong, who is not asked to move up and become involved with being up on the line stopping the run.

In order to protect themselves, prior to the snap, the two corners must know if there will be a safety in the middle of the field to give them help or if the safety is going to be occupied covering the tight end.

I hope this gives you a starting point.

Coach Tom Bass

Coach Tom Bass, a 30-year NFL Coach and the technical writer and advisor for USA football, is also the author of several highly acclaimed football coaching books, including "Play Football the NFL Way" (St. Martin's Press) the only authorized NFL coaching book, "Football Skills and Drills" (Human Kinetics) and "The New Coaches Guide to Youth Football Skills and Drills" (McGraw Hill).  If you would like to order a personalized autographed copy of Coach Bass' books, copies of his printed In-Depth Coaching Clinics, or NFL or College Sport Maps, please visit