Ashley’s Rookie Season : Reviews and Blitzes

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Our friend Ashley is back with two more phenomenal questions! Let’s get started!

Q: When a play goes “under review” who reviews it? Just the refs? Who gets the final say?

Good question! The instant replay system was used for the first time back in 1986 and, while sometimes flawed, has almost unquestionably changed the game for the better. Football happens so fast. And the refs are only human. It’s unrealistic to expect them to get the call right every time based only on what they see in the moment. That’s where instant replay comes in.

There are two ways reviews happen. First, a head coach can challenge the ruling on the field and ask for an official review. He throws a red flag out on the field to indicate he is challenging the ruling. Coaches get two challenges per game. If he is wrong about a challenge (like if he thought a catch ruled a touchdown was actually a fumble and the replay shows a valid touchdown) his team loses a timeout. If he is right about both of their challenges (like if he thought a catch ruled a touchdown was actually a fumble and the replay shows that the ball was fumbled, and if he thought a player stepped out of bounds on a return when he was ruled inside and the replay shows he did step out) his team is awarded a third challenge.

Second, in the final two-minutes of each half or in overtime, a replay assistant sitting up in the booth can call for an official review, or a “booth review.” He has the time from the end of one play to the start of the next to call for a review. He buzzes a signal down to the head official who then “goes under the hood” to watch the replay from various angles and make a decision on the play.

The head official, or referee, makes the final call on all reviews.

For a much more in-depth (and very interesting!) read on all things instant replay, check out this post from Steelers Fever.

Q: What is a blitz?

The dictionary definition of a blitz is, “an intensive or sudden military attack,” and that’s pretty much what it translates to in the NFL as well.

During a blitz, multiple defenders rush to the quarterback in an attempt to sack him. A sack is a play in which the quarterback is tackled while still holding onto the ball as a passer, not as a runner. (So tackling a quarterback who is advancing the ball forward as a runner does not count as a sack). This both a) prevents the offense from completing a play and b) results in lost yardage (since the quarterback is located behind the line of scrimmage, or starting line, and the line of scrimmage will be moved back to where the quarterback was sacked to start the next play). It’s advantageous for the defense when it works. Here’s a visual:

football, normal girls, rookie

In this blitz, two defensive backs (the cornerbacks) and three linebackers are going to rush the quarterback in an attempt to sack him. This was a completely random designation; a blitz can happen with any combination of defensive players, although it usually does include defensive backs and linebackers, and often defensive ends, too.

The disadvantage to blitzing the quarterback comes if they don’t get the sack. If the quarterback is only pressured but still gets the ball off he will have a fairly open field to throw to. This is because a good percentage of the defenders who usually cover the middle and deep portions of the field are otherwise occupied at the front of the field trying to sack him.

Another good round, Ash! And don’t forget that you all can join in on the rookie fun and ask questions, too. Anything is fair game!

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