The dangers of blitzing Rodgers and Cutler

September, 10, 2009
9/10/09
6:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


As we’ve counted down to Sunday night’s showdown at Lambeau Field, we’ve touched on the seeming mismatch between Green Bay’s passing offense and Chicago’s injury-plagued pass defenders. And I think we’ve mentioned, once or twice, that the Packers’ new defense likes to send an extra pass rusher on occasion.

All of which makes you wonder if this game will be a blitzfest. You can all but guarantee the Packers will be sending players from every direction at new Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. And from the Bears’ perspective, I question whether they can sit back in coverage while hoping their defensive line can adequately pressure Aaron Rodgers. (Remember, Rodgers didn’t take a sack in 41 preseason pass attempts.)

The Bears blitzed more than any NFL team last season, after which coach Lovie Smith assumed playcalling duties and indicated a return to more of a pure Tampa-2 style. That would suggest an emphasis on disguising coverages over pressure blitzes. And I’m sure the Bears know this statistic: Rodgers compiled a 107.2 passer rating last year against the blitz, throwing 15 touchdown passes and two interceptions in 145 pass attempts.

Cutler, meanwhile, was no slouch against the blitz while playing for Denver. He threw seven touchdowns and one interception in 158 pass attempts against the blitz, good for an 88.7 rating. (Thanks to our friends at ESPN Stats & Information for those figures, which are enumerated in full in the chart below.)
Cutler and Rodgers against the blitz, 2008
Player Cmp. Att. Cmp.% YPA TD INT Rat. Sacked
Jay Cutler 89 158 56.3 6.61 7 1 88.7 7
Aaron Rodgers 82 145 56.6 7.01 15 2 107.2 13

So what would you do if you were the Bears? Blitz Rodgers, taking the chance that you can disrupt and confuse the Packers’ young offensive line? Or stick to your Tampa-2 scheme and hope Rodgers doesn’t pick you apart from the pocket?

I don’t think the Packers’ defense faces a real decision. Unless they were fooling the world during training camp and the preseason, they plan to get after the quarterback. I’m sure they hope to force Cutler into some bad throws, but the numbers show he didn’t make many of them against the blitz last season.

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