Have at it: Measuring the blitz

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

We might have gotten a little esoteric this week with Have at It. I wanted to give everyone something non-Favre to discuss, and after an emphasis on quarterback and wide receiver discussions for the past few weeks, I looked over to the defensive side of the ball.

The blitz numbers produced by ESPN Stats & Information are interesting, but in retrospect they didn’t really spawn the kind of debate we’re used to with this feature. Or, as Biggest Cheese wrote: “Man, this topic is dead. Everyone's spouting off about Favre.”

(Did that remind anyone else of “Swingers?” This place is dead anyways.)

Kevmob77 looked at the chart, which I’ve republished in this post, and wondered if the Bears didn’t intentionally lead people to believe they would back off the blitz this season. Wrote Kevmob77: “Smoke and Mirrors. Let other teams think you will not blitz as much and do the opposite. And the Bears are doing quite effectively….”

On the other hand, Walter_Payton-The_Greatest_Ever believes the Bears have no choice: “Until Tommie Harris decides to play football instead of patty-cake, the Bears will have to depend on added pressure. $40M to stand up and slap with the OG ... pitiful.”

Titiritero83 was surprised at the low blitz totals from the Lions, who backed off when they got burned a few times early in the season opener at New Orleans. (Remember, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said before the season that he expected to blitz up to 40 percent of the time.)

Titiritero83: I can't imagine why the Lions wouldn't blitz more frequently than anyone, given the fact that they have a horrendous secondary and need to find ways to keep the other team's offense off the field. This stat tells me they need to step it up.

My take? I think the most important function of this exercise was to set a base for our discussions and observations for the rest of the year.

We know we have three defensive coordinators who like to blitz: Cunningham, Green Bay’s Dom Capers and Minnesota’s Leslie Frazier. Chicago coach Lovie Smith is a devotee of the Tampa-2, which theoretically relies on pressure from the front four, but to this point he has continued last season’s blitz-happy ways in his role as de facto defensive coordinator.

Every NFL team blitzes, but our chart lets us know that the NFC North collectively is using them at a much higher rate than the rest of the league. Through three weeks, at least, we have three of the top six blitzing teams in the NFL.

How much is enough? How much is too much? How will it impact the style of play on offense and ultimately the winner of the division title? That’s what we’ll be able to judge over time. As legnome wrote, the most important statistic is how these blitz numbers compare to overall success. We’ll be watching -- and charting.