Fred Pagac To Unleash The Blitz!
When it seemed the Vikings were reaching the pit of their 2010 performance, it was a man they call “Pug” that reached into the bag of magic coordinator tricks and offered new life for a depressed team.
Just when it looked like the Vikings would trip, stumble and bumble their way to the finish line and end one of the most disappointing Purple campaigns filled with unimaginable obstacles (a fired coach, an alleged sexting scandal involving their future Hall of Fame quarterback and a collapsed stadium roof), then-interim defensive coordinator Fred Pagac created an impressive game plan against a playoff team. He took a zone-based defense that had gained the reputation of bend-don’t-break and turned it into a temporary jailbreak against arguably the most feared running quarterback to ever play the game, the Eagles’ Michael Vick.
Casual fans tend to point to that game as a breakout moment for quarterback Joe Webb, but more than that, the Vikings’ 24-14 win over Philadelphia on Dec. 28 (a snowstorm delayed that game two nights) proved that a Tampa-2-based defense doesn’t have to rely solely on its defensive linemen to harass the quarterback.
Pagac offered a glimpse of his personality on a national stage. He run blitzed. He pass blitzed. He took the Vikings’ most reliable and accomplished cornerback, Antoine Winfield, and fired him into the Philadelphia backfield relentlessly – damn the consequences of what Vick might be able to do if he had gotten free. Pagac faced one of the favorites for league MVP at the time and drew up the blueprint on how to neutralize him.
“My philosophy of blitz is blitz for a reason. What’s your reason for blitzing?” Pagac said. “Obviously, there’s run blitzes and there’s pass blitzes. We like to play the run. We like to stop the run. That’s going to be our motto. It’s been our motto since we’ve been here. We want to stop the run, put people in passing situations and let them dictate what we do.”
Actually, Pagac and the Vikings defense did the dictating that night, and it was largely Pagac’s ability – some might call it gumption – to attack Vick, mainly by repeatedly sending Winfield from the nickel slot and forcing Vick to make a quick decision.
The result? The Vikings defense knocked down Vick 14 times, sacking him five times – two by Winfield, who also registered nine tackles. Winfield also recovered a fumble that he took in for a touchdown, giving him the most fumble recoveries (eight) in a career for a Vikings cornerback, and sending him on his way to an easy choice for NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
But if Pagac’s bold moves on a national television set the stage to unravel Vick in future contests – opponents after that continued to find success with the blitz-heavy approach against him – it was also a showing on Pagac’s personality and a possible portend into the future of the Vikings defense.
Pagac is a defensive football coach to the core. Before ascending to defensive coordinator after the firing of Brad Childress and subsequent ascension of Leslie Frazier to head coach, Pagac was the ever-intense linebackers coach with his baseball cap turned backwards and his sizable dip of snuff.
“I might be one of the old-school guys,” he says with a succinct and rare understatement.
Whenever the 2011 season starts, Pagac will have a challenge in front of him in his first full-time opportunity as an NFL coordinator. He served in that capacity for four of his 23 seasons at Ohio State and gained “legend” status there, according to former Buckeye and current Vikings rookie Ross Homan. There, Pagac coached up everyone from Chris Spielman (a four-time Pro Bowl player, College Football Hall of Fame honoree and brother of Vikings vice president Rick Spielman) to Winfield to Mike Vrabel.
The key will be how well Pagac can mask his intentions from game to game in the film-intensive NFL, where secrets are exposed as soon as they are executed on the field.
“There’s different ways of calling defenses. Everybody has their own style. Obviously, we’re going to game plan each week and do what we think is correct, do what we think puts our players in the best position to make plays,” Pagac said.
“As far as being aggressive, I’ll probably call more blitzes – whether they be zone or man – than maybe Les did or maybe Mike [Tomlin] did, but that’s my nature. That’s what I do. We’re the same defense that we were. We’re the same type of defense.”
But then there’s a proclamation that they might not be quite the same as they were before Pagac began directing the defensive action.
“We’re going to be attacking,” he said. “We’re going to be aggressive.”
The game last year against the Eagles was one of the few bright spots Vikings fans received. Seeing the blitz being unleashed was simply fantastic! Vick had no clue what to do and the Vikings were able to leave with a ‘W’. The Vikings have a young linebacker core that could really cause havoc if allowed to blitz continuously. This is very exciting news! SKOL VIKES