Monday, November 9, 2009

Florida Fire Zone: Steeler

Just like the pattern-matching coverage fuses the best of both man and zone defense, so does fire zone pressure.

Fusing the safety of zone coverage and the 5+ man pressure afforded with man coverage, fire zones become an efficient pathway to dismantling offenses. If you watch much football and take note of what is happening on defense, you'll notice that fire zones are actually run more on SECOND down, than "passing downs" (third and long). The reason being, fire zones, while effective pressures, are equally stout against the run (as well as more and more teams not waiting until third down to pass the ball).

Most fans interpret the pattern-matching fire zone by the SCIF (seam-curl-flat, the defender matching #2) player as just "man-to-man". This is likely because the common wives-tale of football is "you can't blitz (4+ pressure) without playing man-to-man". This was true back in the 80's when TV analysts became famous for spouting any old thing (while likely being true back then). For further details on fire zones previously outlined, be sure to check out "defense nu veaux" as well as how (prolific) offenses have learned how to adapt to beating fire zones and designing their game plans around them


Florida's "Steeler" pressure consists of a strong side overload intended to stress BOB or turnback protection. With the #1 receiver being controlled and matched by the corners, the strong safety now can aggressively match #2 and rob any "hot" release he may provide the quarterback. So even if the Quarterback is alerted to "blitz", he still would be unsure of what / who will be where on the defense. The defense still shows a Cover 2 (MOFO) shell, but plays a Cover 3 / Cover 1 (MOFC) concept.

The real key here is that the entire defensive line is going to stunt away from the pressure, to allow the backside end to drop (it is assumed he is rushing by the offense, thereby committing a blocker to account for him) and immediately respond to any release by #2 away from the pressure. He will be responsible to control the seam and rob any inside, vertical throws to #2. The WLB away from the pressure now looks to rob the hole or expand to any #3 receiving threat. This theme, though carried out by various different players, remains consistent in the remaining fire zone pressures of Cowboy and Raider.

The clear advantage fire zones provide are;

  • Ability to overload a side for pass or run (more defenders than the offense can account for on one side of the ball)
  • Easily adjusted to get the most out of the pressure
  • Field defense so adjustments are locked in (and won't be broken, regardless of how the offense presents the formation)

As we explore further concepts, it is important to be mindful of whichever fire zone you choose to run, you must have a base defense out of it. There has to be a point of basic understanding your players are building off of and that they can relate these concepts to. Also, be careful of having too many fire zones. There should be a specific reason you have for running it. You will find that many of these can be consolidated to the three basic concepts outlined here (so there is no need to duplicate).

It isn’t what you know, it is what your players can execute.

For further exploration of fire zones, check out this site , that includes some classic examples of how they are utilized by defenses.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brophy, with these blitzes in mind what are you seeing as a defensive coach that makes it a strategic time to use these fire zones?

I read on chris' blog that you are attacing their protection, and you said explained the bob situation but can you elaborate on this?