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Wink Martindale’s weak-side A-Gap blitz

A look at how Wink Martindale used the same blitz three times to secure a Week 4 victory against Chicago

Chicago Bears v New York Giants Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The New York Giants used the same creative blitz three times in their 20-12 victory over the Chicago Bears in Week 4 of last season. It resembles the cross-dog blitz (also known as Fire X Blitz), which features two blitzing linebackers who cross each other's path with the intention of creating immediate interior pressure. The Giants' employment of two linebackers crossing paths on the blitz against Chicago varied from the typical implementation of the play, which can be seen below:

Courtesy of MatchQuarters, here’s a cross-dog blitz from a Nickel-Over front that puts the center in conflict. The “N” is in a weakside 2i-shade to the field with the “T” as a three-technique. Both interior defensive linemen release into their respective B-Gaps, through the outside shoulder of the guards, which would open the guards to the outside, creating more space to the inside.

More often than not, the center may look to his right - toward the “N” - who has a presence in the A-Gap. Upon the snap, the “N” will step outside, and the “M” would occupy the center’s attention as he blitzes into the closed side A-Gap. As the “M” crosses the center, the “W” stays tight on his hip and blitzes the opposite A-Gap. The center is placed in a lose-lose situation, and the offense best be in a six-man protection with the running back included, lest the quarterback find himself in immediate danger.

Typically on cross-dog blitzes, the linebackers will enter different A-gaps, but the Bears’ protection failed to account for double-linebacker blitzes; their center kept his attention toward Dexter Lawrence, allowing the Giants to attack the same weak-side A-Gap repeatedly.

On a second-and-twelve, early in the second quarter, Wink Martindale dialed up the first weak-side A-Gap blitz against second-year quarterback, Justin Fields (1). Although the defensive linemen aren’t the primary threat in the play, their alignment is far from coincidental. Dexter Lawrence (97) is a 2-technique, with Nick Williams (93) as the 3-technique; both release outside.

Lawrence's alignment - and skill level - prompted the center to open right. To combat that, Martindale sent Jaylon Smith (45) first into the same A-Gap as Tae Crowder (48), who followed Smith’s path. By the time the center realized the blitz, David Montgomery (24) engaged Smith who angled himself inside, which allowed Crowder the outside path right into Justin Fields. Montgomery’s block on Smith created a pick against Sam Mustipher (67).

Note Lawrence and Azeez Ojulari (51) on the play; Lawrence flows to the outside and plays quarterback contain to the field with Ojulari as a quarterback spy. Fields failed to process the linebacker’s blitz and the protection breakdown. If he did, he may have escaped to the field side where the Giants had two players. The Giants went back to this play on second-and-eight with 23-seconds left in the half:

The Giants are in the same alignment with Micah McFadden (41) and Jihad Ward (55) in for Smith and Williams, respectively. McFadden timed the blitz well. Lawrence flowed outside, Ojulari dropped off the line of scrimmage, and Mustipher stepped right. Again, Martindale attacked the weak-side A-Gap. New York played man on the backend with contain and a spy against another six-man protection from the Chicago Bears.

Mustipher contacted the second blitzing linebacker, Crowder, but McFadden swam over the top of Montgomery and forced Fields to run toward Lawrence and Ojulari - just like it was drawn up by Martindale. Fields was sacked at the line of scrimmage by Dexter Lawrence and the Bears fail to put points on the board before halftime.

Two plays, two sacks. Both the central threat (the blitz) and the contingency (the spies) were the reason for the Giants’ success. Early in the fourth quarter on this third-and-three, Big Blue went back to the blitz from the same alignment:

Same alignment, same action. Mustipher stepped toward Lawrence who contained, Ojulari spied Fields, and both linebackers attacked the weak-side A-Gap. This creative five or four-and-a-half-man pressure package forced the Bears to slide the center right on all three calls while scheming four pressuring defenders against three Bears’ blockers to the weak side when they were in a six-man protection.

On each play, there are two blockers to the right with little to no work for them. Plays like this are a microcosm of Wink Martindale’s creativity based on his philosophy of pressure exploiting poor offensive tendencies. Martindale is a master of creating a numbers advantage for his defense to one side of the offense’s protection. He disguises his intentions well, and attacks aggressively.

Three of the more important defensive plays in this early one-score win were all the same calls by Martindale. The Giants' coaching staff gave them an edge throughout the 2022 season, and instances like these three plays are one of the many examples that highlight that fortunate fact.