Following the loss to the Atlanta Falcons there’s been some discussion among media and fans about the low number of blitzes called by defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, both in that game and overall this season. The question is, does blitzing more often help or hurt a defense overall?
The answer is - it depends. According to football outsiders:
“Blitzing teams improve their odds of a big play but also improve the odds that a big play will be made against them, and so a blitz can be either a good or bad strategy depending on factors like the game situation and offensive and defensive personnel”
So how often do Robert Saleh and the 49ers blitz?
So far this year, the 49ers are 29th in the NFL in blitz percentage at 19.8%. To put that in perspective the Baltimore Ravens lead the league at 53.6%, the Patriots are 6th at 36.2%. And the 49ers aren’t in good company at the bottom either. The Chargers, Raiders, and Lions are the only other teams that are blitzing at a less than 20% clip.
So the answer is easy, blitz more. Right?
Well, maybe. But maybe not.
Despite the low blitz percentage, the 49ers rank 4th in the league in pressure rate, 1st in the league in sack rate, and 2nd in the league in overall adjusted Defensive DVOA, just behind the Patriots.
So then, the answer is don’t blitz more, right?
Again, maybe. For the answer I think we go back to the football outsiders quote. It depends on game situation and personnel. When the 49ers are at full strength, with the full compliment of players, and in a positive game script, I think it’s fine for Saleh to continue to blitz infrequently – the numbers say that it’s been working.
But if I had to pick nits, I’d say that he needs to be little bit more flexible with so many injuries on the defense – especially in late game drives where his defense has frequently allowed opposing offenses to walk down the field on their way to game winning drives (this was an issue last year as well).
So, do the 49ers need to blitz 53% of the time like the Ravens? The numbers say no. But late in the game, with time running out, and the opposing offense on the move, a perfectly timed blitz can be the difference between a big win or a disappointing loss. And all I’m asking is that Saleh at least consider it.
And now. onto those links:
49ers Look to Get Defense Back on Track vs Rams (Josh Dubow, NBC Bay Area)
Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams not on 49ers’ injury report vs. Rams (Kyle Madson, Niners Wire)
Former scout says 49ers’ Nick Bosa is having ‘one of the best rookie defensive end seasons’ he’s ever seen (David Bonilla, 49ers WebZone)
Rams vs. 49ers: Week 16 betting odds, weather and injuries (Peter Panacy, Niners Noise)
Todd McShay for some reason has 49ers taking RB in mock draft (Kyle Madson, Niners Wire)
Legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh named to NFL 100 All-Time Team (David Bonilla, 49ers WebZone)
Why Emmanuel Sanders will bounce back in Week 16 vs. Rams (Robert Morrison, Niners Noise)
Why the 49ers elite defense is slumping slightly ahead of playoff run (Chris Biderman, Sac Bee)
49ers’ sack leader Arik Armstead picks ideal time for breakout season (Nick Wagoner, ESPN)
NFL Week 16: Key Matchups And Prediction For Rams-49ers (Vincent Frank, Forbes)
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