Let's take a look at a huge defensive moment in the game on Sunday. I wish I had more time to dedicate to the defensive X's and O's, but since I focus on the offense - defense gets short-changed quite a bit.
But, as the opportunity presents itself, I think we should occasionally spend some time looking at how Wade Phillips gets pressure.
Since he has an absolute elite pass rusher in DeMarcus Ware, Wade doesn't have to dip into the "exotic" blitzes as often as guys like Gregg Williams in New Orleans or Rex Ryan in New York. It seems that defenses that bring risky pressure regularly do it partly because they don't have a 20-sack guy who can beat you straight up on a routine basis. There is no reason to take chances when you don't have to. And make no mistake - bringing 7 or 8 on a blitz is taking a major chance at this level. If you are good enough to be a starting QB in the NFL then you are good enough to beat a Cover 0 opportunity at least some of the time.
But, here is a look that is an evolution of the zone blitz known as the "fire zone" blitz. With the "fire zone", the objective is to bring pressure from one side and drop the weakside defensive end into a zone coverage on the opposite side. Blitzing 7 is too risky for most, but what if you can make the offense react like you are blitzing more guys than you really are.
See if you can catch that concept as DeMarcus Ware (who has the full attention of the Left Tackle) fakes his pass rush but then drops to the left flat. This idea is great because the chance that Ware rushes is enough to occupy the left tackle even though he doesn't really rush. So, you get the benefit of taking the LT out of the play, but still get Ware to cover a zone in coverage. Meanwhile, Keith Brooking and Bradie James both blitz from outside Anthony Spencer.
Meanwhile, the 3 defensive linemen who are actually pass rushing (93-Spencer, 90-Ratliff, 72-Bowen) all slant away from the blitz side to further stress the Right Tackle side of things.
This play call from Wade is a still calculated risk. In fact, if Arian Foster (#23) picks up Brooking, it sure looks like Schaub should be able to hit 12-Jacoby Jones before Ratliff gets to him. But, Foster runs right past Brooking in a curious fashion, and Brooking is untouched and blows up the play.
Behind the 5 man blitz (James, Brooking, Spencer, Ratliff, and Bowen) the Cowboys try to set up a 3-3 zone. Ware is shallow left, Newman shallow right and Sensabaugh in the middle. With Ball, Jenkins, and Scandrick also in this mix.
What is extra interesting is when Fox shows us the end-zone view. There, we see that the Cowboys are really assuming that the pressure will get there because it looks like way more coverage is at the goal-line than the back of the end-zone. In the back of the end-zone, Walter and Jones both look open if Schaub had a moment to see them. But, because of the protection chaos Houston had, he doesn't have the time.
Drive killed with a great call at the right moment.