MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ask George Edwards about defensive philosophy, and the Vikings defensive coordinator will make this very clear: Everything they do is predicated on pressure.
“We want to be able to affect the quarterback, whether we do that with a four-man rush, whether we do that with a five-man rush, or a six-man rush, I mean, that’s our whole game,” Edwards said.
That pressure comes from a strategy that’s been a staple of Mike Zimmer’s defense for years — the double A-gap blitz.
The two gaps between the center and the guard are called the A-gaps. In the double A-gap blitz, before the snap, two linebackers come up to the line like they’re going blitz through both A-gaps.
“We’ve got, pretty much, six men walked up, on the line of scrimmage,” Edwards said. “We can four-man rush you, we can five-man rush you, we can-six man rush you.”
This is the key: The offense doesn’t know how many of the six are coming. That creates a lot of confusion, mismatches, and missed blocks.
“At the end of the day, I think that’s the thing,” Edwards said. “Because we’re right there at the quarterback, to be able to get pressure on him.”
That pressure has led to the Vikings being second in the league in sacks per game, as well as playing a role in denying receivers like Kelvin Benjamin and Odell Beckham the ball – or taking it away. The Vikings lead the league in turnovers per game.
“Last week, we didn’t get a lot of sacks, but we still pressured the quarterback,” Edwards said. “Pass rush, along with the coverage, it goes hand in hand. You can’t do one without the other. And I think our guys have bought into that and understand that.”
So why doesn’t every team in the league run the double A-gap blitz?
Well actually, a lot of them do. But to do it most effectively, you’ve got to have players with the right kind of skill set. The Vikings clearly do.