The New York Giants defence usually lives by the blitz.
Last Sunday against Pittsburgh, it died by it.
Here’s the situation:
Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, the Steelers trail 20-10, and they have the ball 3rd-and-5 on their own 49.
Pittsburgh lines up in an 11 formation, with one tight end (Heath Miller) as an H-back of sorts to the left, a slot receiver (Emmanuel Sanders) just left of him, and two wide receivers – Antonio Brown far left, and Mike Wallace far right.
When the Giants counter by lining up five pass rushers on the line (four of them to the left of Pittsburgh’s centre), and with a strong safety and a linebacker both posing a blitz threat on the right, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger checks out of the called play.
He correctly sees that the Giants intend to bring the heat, so Big Ben checks into a quick, look-in slant to Wallace on the right.
In fact it’s a very quick slant. Once Roethlisberger gets the shotgun snap, he takes a one-and-a-half step drop and fires almost instantaneously to Wallace.
The Giants rush four linemen, then blitz the linebacker and safety on Pittsburgh’s right. None of the six men can get near Roethlisberger by the time he fires, and worse for New York all are out of the play.
Wallace catches the pass in full sprint and by the time he takes a few more steps to the inside, both the hard-charging free safety and the cornerback trailing him in man-to-man coverage, Antrel Rolle, dive and miss him – Wallace is too fast.
And because the left-side linebacker is covering Miller, the tight end, way up in the short left flat, only two Giants now have a chance to bring down Wallace – the nickelback, Jayron Hosley, and the leftside cornerback, Prince Amukamara.
Both followed their men in coverage closely, however, and by the time they realize Wallace has cut straight across the field, and is about to head up the left sideline, they can’t catch him.
Wallace has too much speed for them and is gone – 51 yards for a touchdown that narrows New York’s lead to 20-17.
Two New York three-and-outs later, the Steelers win the game on a short Isaac Redman touchdown run with 4:02 left.
Final score: Pittsburgh 24, New York 20.
If you’ve called a six-man blitz on Big Ben and he checks out of the play, you better back out of it. Otherwise, as the Giants painfully learned, you leave yourself vulnerable to a game-changing killer play, such as this one.