Bears blockers ready for ‘America’s blitz,’ its originator Monday

SHARE Bears blockers ready for ‘America’s blitz,’ its originator Monday
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Bears guard Josh Sitton will push to play the Vikings on Monday. (AP)

The wrinkle Mike Zimmer developed seven years ago isn’t unique to his teams anymore.

“It’s pretty much America’s blitz now,” Bears guard Eric Kush said.

In the months before the 2009 season, Zimmer, then the Bengals’ defensive coordinator, fine-tuned the double-“A” gap mug blitz. He placed one linebacker in each “A” gap — over each one of the center’s shoulders.

The linebackers threatened to blitz up the middle, but they also confused the center, whose job it is before every play to point out “Mike,” or middle linebacker. Other linemen set their blocking assignments based off his declaration.

The blitz was unique. Now?

“I wish it wasn’t so copied, but it is …” said Zimmer, now the Vikings head coach. “It’s like everything else in the NFL — things get copied.”

The Vikings still use the blitz effectively, but they try to be more creative because opponents see it all the time. They twist their linebackers so they blitz into different gaps, or drop them into coverage and bring pressure from the outside.

“They always evolve,” said Bears left guard Josh Sitton, who is questionable because of a right ankle sprain. “Coach Zimmer is just extremely smart and his guys are always very disciplined. They can just keep evolving with it, whereas other teams can only do a certain number of teams with it. …

“They do it so well that it’s tough to combat.”

Scheming against the blitz is nothing new for the Bears, who play the Vikings twice a year. But it will be a challenge Monday night if Pro Bowl guards Kyle Long (triceps), who is doubtful, and Sitton don’t play.

The Bears would then deploy guards Kush, who made his second career start against the Packers, and Ted Larsen, who hasn’t started since signing this offseason.

Rookie center Cody Whitehair will face Zimmer’s defense for the first time.

“I think it all starts with me, obviously, making the right call helping the two guys next to me,” Whitehair said.

Larsen suspects Whitehair will be calmed down by the return of Jay Cutler, who hasn’t played since leaving Game 2 with sprained right thumb ligaments. Sitton, who has played Zimmer’s teams five times and will push to play Monday night, said Whitehair should be fine.

“Cody will have no problem with it,” Sitton said. “He’s as smart as they come. Nothing’s really too big for him.”

Both part-time centers, Larsen and Kush know how Whitehair feels.

“The three of us can look at it and say this should be the ‘Mike,’” said Kush, who is likely to start for Long. “Which is great — as long as we’re all pointing to the same guy.

“Ultimately it’s Cody’s call — Cody and the quarterback’s call. So we just listen and help them out.”

The double-“A” gap mug blitz certainly won’t surprise Whitehair — or the Bears.

No matter how often they see other teams use the blitz, no one does it like the originator.

“As long as you do what you’re told an you know the concept and understand your role,” Kush said, “you should be OK.”

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