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Chris Gay: Still hating zone defense

Posted: January 24, 2018 - 1:18am

You may have heard this before, but I'm going to say it again.

I hate zone defense.

After spending a week smelling cows and horses at the Augusta Futurity, you'd think my opinion has changed. It hasn't. After watching Sunday's AFC championship game between Jacksonville and New England, I feel even stronger about zone defense.

The Jaguars - aka "Sacksonville" - finished second in the NFL in sacks during the regular season with 55. (In comparison, Atlanta had just 39). While Jacksonville sacked Tom Brady three times Sunday, the Jaguars didn't put any pressure on him when it mattered.

Early in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville led by 10. New England faced third and 18 from its 25. Jacksonville rushed four linemen, while everyone else stood back on their heels. With no pressure on him, Brady completed a 21-yard pass over the middle. Later on the drive, Jacksonville rushed just four again, allowing Brady to drop back in the pocket, drink some coffee, eat a bagel, read the newspaper and then toss an easy touchdown pass to Danny Amendola.

On New England's next drive, the Jaguars blitzed a linebacker up the middle on second and 10 just past midfield. Brady threw incomplete. Jacksonville rushed five again on the next play. Another incompletion. The Patriots punted.

Of course, New England got the ball back. The Patriots needed just five plays on their scoring drive marching 30 yards for the game-winning points. Predictably, Jacksonville stopped blitzing. They dropped back into a zone, rushing four. Maybe that worked during the regular season, but it didn't when it mattered against the greatest quarterback ever.

I hate zone defense for many reasons. I believe a football team should put pressure on the opposing quarterback, whether he's Tom Brady or Blake Bortles. When you give a quarterback time to throw the ball, bad things usually happen. And when you play zone defense, you're basically leaving everything up to your secondary. That's usually a bad idea. Ask Georgia how bad it was to rely on the secondary in overtime of the national championship.

The Falcons played that terrible zone defense all season. Some will defend the defense, stating it was ninth in yards allowed per game. I don't think that stat tells the whole story. Atlanta was also 14th in sacks, 22nd in first downs allowed, 22nd in percentage of drives ending in an offensive score and 30th in interceptions.

I hate it when my favorite teams play zone defense. Blitz, Baby, Blitz. Is that too much to ask?

 

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