The Bears, the Blitz and the Tampa 2

The phrase "Tampa 2 Defense" is one of those phrases that has been used, re-used and mis-used in football so often that it's almost lost its meaning. Much like the "West Coast Offense," the "Tampa 2 Defense" has elements that are used by every team and isn't used exclusively by any team.

But one of the aspects of the Tampa 2 that is supposed to be a fairly hard and fast rule is that Tampa 2 teams generate their pass rush almost exclusively from the four down linemen, and not from blitzing with linebackers or defensive backs. So it's a little surprising to look at the numbers and see that in reality, one of those Tampa 2 teams, the Chicago Bears, actually blitz a whole lot.

My friends at Football Outsiders were nice enough to let me have a look at their game charting numbers, and they show that the Bears blitzed on 38.6% of their defensive plays in 2008. Only two teams, the Cowboys and Redskins, blitzed more often than that.

The other three teams most closely associated with the Tampa 2 -- the Buccaneers, Lions and Colts -- were all over the map in terms of how often they blitz. The Lions blitzed 31.1% of the time, the Bucs 21.5% of the time and the Colts a league-low 11.4% of the time.

So what is it about the Bears that made them blitz so much? My own view, from watching them over the course of the 2008 season, is that the front four did such a lousy job of generating a pass rush that Lovie Smith thought he had no choice but to blitz. Unfortunately for the Bears, bringing the blitz didn't do a lot: They were tied for 22nd in the league with 28 sacks last season, and only four players on the team had more than two sacks all season.

That the Bears blitzed so often shows how little they used the Tampa 2, at least as that term was originally defined. That they blitzed so often and had so little to show for it demonstrates that their otherwise stout defense has one very big flaw.

The Bears, the Blitz and the Tampa 2 originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Mon, 05 Jan 2009 19:32:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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