Blitz-Thriving Kirk Cousins

December 9th, 2020

Will Bucs fans ever see this again?

A massive component of the Buccaneers defense is blitzing.

Sunday’s opponent is thriving against the blitz.

Two-time Pro Bowler Kirk Cousins quarterbacks the 6-6 Vikings, the mediocre team that the dream-team Buccaneers must beat Sunday to avoid humiliation, disgrace and a four-game home losing streak. And they also need the “W” to secure a commanding spot in the NFC playoff chase.

Cousins, per ESPN data, is thriving against the blitz; he’s on a stretch of being blitzed on 32.3% of his dropbacks, and through that period he’s gone 16-of-26 for 183 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bucs blitz about 40 percent of defensive snaps, one of the highest rates in the NFL.

Per Courtney Cronin of ESPN, Cousins had a whale of a November, leading the NFL in passer rating (for those who think that’s a legitimate stat, completing 72.4 percent of his passes and throwing a dozen touchdowns.

She notes: “He’s one of five quarterbacks with four 300-yard, three-touchdown games this season, joining Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen.”

Joe wonders what happened to the early success of the Bucs’ blitzes?

Lavonte David hasn’t hit a quarterback since Week 6. Antoine Winfield had QB hits in his first three games, but nothing since. Jordan Whitehead had two sacks and three QB hits through Week 4 and, yes, he’s registered nothing in those areas since then.

That’s not a coincidence.

Joe will play smiling optimist for a moment and suggest defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has been hiding array of creative and successful blitzes that will return on Sunday.

29 Responses to “Blitz-Thriving Kirk Cousins”

  1. pewter941 Says:

    I want to know what has changed since the beginning of the year, that has us blitzing less, is it the loss of Vea?

  2. Bradinator Says:

    I want to know why so much Zone? Please stop the Zone Blitz as well. Neither Shaq or JPP should EVER be in coverage instead of rushing the passer. That’s what we pay them for. Great line from “Two and a Half Men” where Charlie tells Steven Tyler, of Aerosmith, “They pay to hear you sing. They only tolerate the harmonica” .

  3. Danny C Says:

    Blitzing is our defensive identity. We have to live by and die by it. That’s what we built here with our defense, so stick with it.

  4. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Minnesota wins when they don’t turn it over and Cook is effective.
    Bucs must stop Cook and get turnovers.
    The pass rush and safeties need to step up.

  5. Cobraboy Says:

    The pass rush died with Vea going down.

    He swallowed up blockers in the middle unlike his replacements.

    I am not confident the Bucs come away with a W against this Vikings team. Cousins has carved up the Bucs in the past. The DC Debacle still stings.

  6. stpetebucsfan Says:

    Can some football expert here…D.R. Cobra…there are many teach me some nuance about pass defense.

    Let’s start with the obvious. The very best pass defenses are predicated on ferocious pass rushes. We’re not there yet but neither are a lot of teams.

    So how do we defend the pass if we do not trust our front seven to get to the QB.

    I hear the disgust with zone coverage and agree…but OTOH we saw what happened when you put a DB on one of the NFL’s speed merchants. CD must still be having nightmares.

    So here is my question…what is the IDEAL situation? I’m used to seeing great D’s put two cover corners on the top two receivers and then use safeties where needed to double…or perhaps letting an LB help in zone..
    IE Aren’t the best D’s neither man nor zone but a combination.

    If that is true is it our young safeties who are not getting the nuances of helping out their DB’s?

  7. stpetebucsfan Says:

    BTW I’m not necessarily throwing our safeties under the bus. They also have run responsibilities and I do not know Bowles emphasis with them.

    I do now that a 4.44 DB cannot keep up with a 4.24 WR. In the absence of a ferocious pass rush the 4.24 will beat a 4.44 every time.

  8. All lives matter Says:

    What I learned. In all the games that Cousin’s had over 300 yards passing, they were in catchup mode. Kind of how JW used to get his passing totals. When you pass 7 out of every 10 plays you’re gonna rack up passing yards. So taking into account how the Vike’s are seemingly good against the blitz, …don’t blitz.

    Rush 4 and double Thielen and Jefferson

  9. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    I am with Cobraboy.
    This is far from a Gimme Game for us.
    Yes, the loss of Vea hurts us because he needs 2 guys on him, and that opened up Blitzing Lanes for us.

  10. Mitch Says:

    The Bucs pass rush the during the first eight weeks of the season was ranked second in the league in getting pressure at over 30%. Now weeks 9-12 the defense has only gotten pressure 18% of the time which is good for 30th in the league. Vea was a big loss for sure but I wonder what the difference is? If we look at our schedule it looks like we have just played better teams than the at the beginning of the year (except Green Bay).

  11. D1 Says:


    I truly respect you for asking a question to further your understanding of the game. Far to often fans just repeat what they have heard and assume they understand the opinion they’re repeating. Respect!

    If I may suggest a slight change in your approach or question. You ask what is the ideal situation. I don’t believe there is an answer to that specific question.
    To be ideal, we have to accept the premise of a single answer , or static , to a rapidly evolving dynamic situation. It’s impossible to impose order on a dynamic process. You can seek to limit the outcomes but not eliminate them all together.

    Don’t mean to go down a rabbit hole on this but it’s relevant to the point of identifying the information that will further your knowledge and overall depth of a specific aspect of the game from the wide sweeping generalized answers that will ultimately fail the test of reproducibility from game to game.

    I would start with a question about the next games opponent and how our defense might approach the game from what should be the defenses overall goals and proceed to how best to accomplish these listed goals. From there you would ultimately arrive at the place you are looking for, an ideal defense. What you gain by this approach is a perfect scheme each week which is more realistic or shall we state it more concisely, you get a realistic and applicable model. The one size fits all approach is not realistic in theory or practice. There for, it’s not possible to be “more” realistic, it’s either realistic or not.

  12. Capece is Kaput Says:

    On all of Tyreek Hill’s biggest plays he was not doubled at all.
    That is not smart. Watch the film.
    I say we tone down on the blitz for this game against Cousins. Double Jefferson. Take your chances with Thielen. I think with Cousins, the longer he has to think the more likely he will make a bad decision or just throw dinks and dunks. Cook is great, but the Vikings loaded him up last week. I think he had 38 touches and was in the game on almost 90% of their snaps. Time spent running routes, picking up blitzes, etc. Even on an off day for the Bucs run Defense, he is still going to have to work hard to pile up yards. I see him wearing out in this game. I hope I am right. Either way this is a tough game. Not the easy game we all thought it would be earlier this year.

  13. D1 Says:


    Good question. Instead an answer, I will ask you a another question. Who is our best, most effective pass rusher (s)? Who does the team pay and expect pass rush production from.

    Note, Lots of fans are pointing to the loss of Vea for the teams recent lack of effectiveness but Vea was not a player the team expected and relied on to produce in that specific area. At best, we can say His not being in the lineup has is a contributing factor, but it can not be the sole reason for the teams dramatic fall off in production.

  14. Steven007 Says:

    Cobra, good point. Earlier in the season Devin White had a devastating a-gap blitz where he would slightly hesitate before rushing. With vea occupying blockers it worked nearly every time. Now there’s almost always a free blocker available to catch white since they don’t have to double team Vea.

  15. All lives matter Says:

    I also agree with the sentiment about the loss of Vita Vea. He proved that his presence was crucially vital in the use of the LB blitz. I’d love to see more disruption outta Nacho but his stamina seems short life compared to Vea.

    We miss him for sure…

  16. D1 Says:


    The 4.2 vs 4.4, or something like that, creating an impossible matchup for Davis is ridiculous and too simplistic to adequately explain why we witnessed the horrifying carnage during that contest.

    Swede Savage didnt get roasted anywhere near as bad as Davis did against Hill.

    Sorry , I have no intention to insult you, but it’s just so removed from whats impactful on the field.

  17. PSL Bob Says:

    Two factors are at play. (1) Vea is no longer anchoring the center of the line, and (2) after a few weeks of watching tapes, teams are now prepared for the Bucs’ blitzes and are able to scheme them better.

  18. Will Says:

    D1 the guys we’re paying to get to the QB (JPP and Shaq) for some reason Todd loves dropping them into coverage. I remember last season it seemed they would move JPP to the middle and let him rush from there more than they do this year. Yes the loss of Vea is imo probably the biggest reason we’ve seen such a drop in our blitzes getting home and some due to the fact that Todd isn’t bringing some of those exotic blitzes we saw at the start of the season and playing more zone which it seems that our secondary isn’t that good at playing. Hopefully this bye week they got everything ironed out and will be ready for this game or make adjustments before halftime.

  19. Mitch Says:

    D1, right now it is Shaq who has had a strong 4 out of the last five games. JPP is making great football plays but he has not been as disruptive pass rushing the last quarter of the season. The linebacker play has not been good over the last quarter of the season. You also have to consider the apparent midseason regression from the secondary (could be the scheme/coaching related)… I also know most QB’s this year are getting the ball out under 2.5 seconds (most sacks take 4.3). I’m sure there is more than one reason contributing to it overall than just the rushers.

    I would partially agree with your take on Vea. Of course he is is a great run stopper, and takes up blocks to allow for the linebackers and line mates to run free, but what you did not say anything about his disruption up the middle. No one man can block Vea when he is healthy, and he did not just hold the line of scrimmage (like 96, 56, or 93) Vea lived in the backfield. He was consistent and pushed linemen back into the QB’s face, and that disruption would help everyone else get pressure/make plays. That said I do agree that they aren’t expecting him to have big sack numbers but his ability to disrupt the line of scrimmage is what is missed most.

  20. Defense Rules Says:

    I’ve gotta say that these are some of the best comments I’ve seen on JBF in as long as I can remember. StPete’s question is a superb one to focus on, but I agree with D1 when he says “The one size fits all approach is not realistic in theory or practice”. Every football game is very ‘dynamic’ as D1 says, and so there’s really no ideal defense (or offense) per se.

    I played a lot of chess in my younger years, and I still see football games from a similar mindset. One player makes a move, the other counters … and so on & so forth. Move – countermove, etc, etc. Oftentimes however, the first moves are somewhat ‘scripted’, largely because you’re trying to feel out your opponent’s strategy & get a feel for how they respond to various moves (ie, their tactics).

    And I think that’s why to me it’s incredulous that any OC would say that they don’t ‘game plan’ per se. Those initial moves ‘set the stage’ for what will come later, and when 2 relatively equal chess players are going against each other, any mistake in those first few moves can be catastrophic down the line. Kinda like falling behind early in football games and then becoming one-dimensional while trying to catch-up?

    On the defensive side of the ball, Todd Bowles seems to do a genuinely good job ‘adjusting’ as the game goes on. However, it looks to me like he has a very similar problem to that which took Smitty down: mediocre pass rush. BOTH seemed to be committed to the same #1 priority: STOP THE RUN. Smitty’s problem IMO was that he didn’t have the horses to make that happen (Bucs ranked #22, #23 & #24 against the run under Smitty from 2016-2018). Bowles has better horses, and his run defense ranked #1 in 2019 and is currently ranked at #1 again this year.

    I still wonder though if that stringent focus on stopping the run isn’t adversely impacting our pass rush by making us more predictable & thus easier to pass-block against. The last team Bucs team that was #1 against the run was the 2012 Bucs coached by Greg Schiano. We went 7-9 that year and had the #1 run defense BUT … the #32 pass defense. So he apparently adjusted in 2013 and became more BALANCED … we had the #15 run defense that year AND … the #17 pass defense. He improved one (pass defense) considerably, but was it at the expense of the run defense?

    Brings up a similar question in my mind for this year. Is it time for us to shake things up regarding HOW we pass rush, even if those changes cost us somewhat in terms of run defense?

  21. Cobraboy Says:

    DR: some play better chess that others.

    I don’t see this team making great adjustments in games with few exceptions.

    Teams jump ahead quickly and them seem to take their foot off the gas, giving the impression of The Great Bucs Comeback.

    I am not buying it.

  22. Aaron E May Says:

    I’d like to see us scheme blitzes…play man with Safety help..etc..sending the house every time is not smart.

    The way a slower corner handles a fast wr is to get their hands on them at the line of scrimmage…He’ll still need help but that’s your best chance…nothing wrong with a couple of holding calls either…can’t give him a free release off of the line of scrimmage…Hill is awesome, but everyone else seemed to figure out how to keep him at 90yrd avg…not the Bucs 300 yr avg…

    Has anyone seen Jared Goff play since our game..

  23. Defense Rules Says:

    Cobraboy … Very interesting perspective, and in the Chiefs game I could easily go along (I thought after the 1st qtr that the Chiefs were gonna bury us). But I look at the Packers game & see something quite different. They started out like gang-busters, but 2 very quick miscues (on their part) sent them reeling & they never recovered. Our offense opened terrible in that game (why bother game-planning huh?) but the Bucs’ defense seemingly adjusted after the 1st qtr and whammo … we had the lead in less than 2 minutes. And never relinquished it.

    So did we just get lucky or did our defense make some awesome adjustments that the Packers couldn’t effectively counter? After the 1st qtr when the Chiefs were leading 17-0, did they prematurely take their foot off the gas & only score 1 TD/1 FG or did the Bucs’ defense once again make some awesome adjustments that the Chiefs didn’t effectively counter?

    But what I’d really like to hear is your take on our pass rush Cobraboy. Are we focusing so much on stopping the run that our pass rush has become predictable without Vea to overpower OLines? Remember Schiano’s ‘stunting’? It had to cost him some in run defense, but was it instrumental in improving our pass rush & pass defense? I admittedly have no clue, but I’d guess that some of you guys who’ve played or coached at this level must have seen adjustments like that before.

  24. D1 Says:

    Will, Mitch,

    Great points ! I also question the actions of Bowles with his complicating both the pass rush and coverge since Vea was injured.

    Specifically, I am referring to removing both Shaq and JPP from what they are paid to do, rush the passer, and instead dropping them into coverage. Chicago took advantage of this whenever it was done and it cost us the game. What has been the response by bowles, we’ll he just plowed forward and continued to call the same coverage. What really matters is that our coach has removed, voluntarily, his 2 best pass rushers and turned them into below average coverage linebackers. Again, this is done without a threat of bodily injury to Bowles or his family. He did it himself!

    The lack of blitzing white recently is another full blown mystery. White is a liability in coveraf

  25. D1 Says:

    Coverage but we all witnessed what happens when he was used to blitz the QB. Once again, under no duress Bowles chooses to utilize a player in a manner that is not favorable for his or the teams success. Why?

    Vea’s skill set allowed Bowles to line him up differently than nacho or the guy from the jets, and Vea created a different problem for the opposing line and it was easier to exploit what he brought to the table than his replacements. But for pete sakes the difference between them isn’t so great as to implement wholesale changes to the roles that Bowles is now asking white, JPP and shaq to fullfill.

    You lose Vea to injury, you lose white JPP and shaq to stupidity . I can’t understand it at all. Furthermore, if white isn’t going to blitz on passing downs , then for the love of Lombardi put in a safety at that spot. Coverage improves and a liability is removed. That’s a win win.


    I agree this has been one of the best threads in awhile. You once again do what you do and brought some excellent points to the discussion. I think I covered a few above.

  26. Defense Rules Says:

    Thanks D1. I’m still perplexed by what I’ve been seeing from our Bucs’ defense. I keep wondering how they can do one thing so well (run defense) but another (pass defense) so poorly. Schiano had the same thing going on in 2012, but seemingly found a middle ground in 2013.

  27. Cobraboy Says:

    DR: IMO, losing Vea was huge, because he freed up outside and inside rushing lanes.

    He pushed the pocket back, allowing the outside guys to thrive.

    He 100% drew doubles, often with Suh, and that opened gaps for White and David to get through untouched.

    He forced QB’s to escape outside, helping Gholston and Barrett on the edges (righty QB’s have a natural propensity to sprint out to their right.)

    When Vea went down, Bowles had to retool his pass rush, and the effects have not been impressive. The two NT’s don’t have the fraction of meat and push as Vea.

    Suh is a great anchor, largely unmovable, but he never had the pure push that Vea does. Vea is a generational freak. That push stops QB’s from stepping up into the pocket and allows direct pressure from the edges to be much more effective.

    When Vea was there, an extra back ot TE had to be left in, creating fewer pass options for the QB. Now they don’t, and more receivers can be in the pattern. More receivers are harder to cover.

    When Vea went down I knew the defense was going to have problems, and they have. If you rank the pre-Vea injury defense with the post-Vea injury defense, it’s almost like two different teams.

  28. Cobraboy Says:

    I posted before I saw Bill Polian’s quote in a more recent JBF thread:

    “But I think defensively, Bruce never makes excuses, but the loss of Vita Vea was really, really tough. Because the nose tackle is the guy that sets the tone. … their run game has suffered, they’re (sic) pocket push has suffered and they’re not the same defense.”

    Sound familiar?

  29. unbelievable Says:


    Simple as that.