There are blitzes and there are blitzes. There are safety blitzes and maniac blitzes, single linebacker blitzes and delayed blitzes; there are blitzes that look like blintzes because they're so ineffective. Then there are Lawrence Taylor blitzes.
They are like nothing else in the NFL, or any other FL. They are like messages from Thor, or as Taylor's former New York Giant teammate Beasley Reece once said, "When Lawrence is coming, you can hear sirens going off."
On Sunday, Taylor blitzed Dallas into submission, and a happy, sun-drenched Giants Stadium crowd of 75,921 cheered mightily as the New Yorkers shocked the Cowboys 28-7, the Giants' biggest margin of victory over Dallas in 22 years.
Random House's unabridged dictionary defines a blitz this way: "War waged by surprise, swiftly and violently, as by the use of aircraft, tanks, etc." Etcetera stands for Lawrence Taylor.
Swiftly? Yes. The Giants' right outside linebacker runs a 4.5 40, a time no man who stands 6'3" and weighs 243 pounds should be allowed to run. Gary Hogeboom, the young Dallas quarterback who went down three times under Taylor blitzes, said, "I never saw him coming." And Doug Cosbie, the tight end who tried to block Taylor, said, "When you're four yards away from him, what can you do? He's too quick."
How about violently? Well, Taylor made Hogeboom cough up the ball twice when the Cowboys had driven deep into Giant territory. The first bobble gave New York seven points and a club record for longest fumble recovery when their other outside linebacker, Andy Headen, scooped up the ball and went 81 yards for a TD. The second fumble choked the Cowboys off when they had reached the Giants' 10 at the end of the first half.
The Giants led at halftime 21-0, but it could have been 14-14 if not for Taylor's sacks. The Cowboys had reached the Giants' six-yard line, after marching 88 yards, when Taylor knocked the ball loose and Headen ran it back. Two possessions later they'd gone 41 yards to get to the Giants' 10. It isn't inconceivable that they would have scored twice, and then the momentum would have been Dallas's. And they would've gotten emotional. And their locker room would have been a happy place. And a lot of "What's wrong with the Cowboys?" angles would have been killed.
Instead, their halftime locker room was devoted to solving the perplexing question that has tormented some of the finest minds in the NFL: What the hell do we do about Lawrence Taylor?
In 1981, when Taylor burst into the league from the University of North Carolina, a running back was assigned to pick up his blitzes—the conventional blocker-blockee relationship. He was too fast, too strong and too nasty for that matchup. Better use the big people on him. The 49ers solved the problem in a playoff game. They had a 265-pound guard, John Ayers, peeling off to pick up Taylor, and they got a standoff out of it.
Back to the drawing board went Bill Parcells, then the defensive coordinator, now the Giants' head coach. You want to pull a guard and leave a hole in the middle? Fine. We'll send other people through it. Or maybe we'll send Taylor on a wide, looping rush and make a footrace out of it. The guard idea was soon mothballed, and various combinations of two or more blockers were assigned to Taylor. Sure, we're tying up a lot of people, the offensive coaches said, but it's better than having to face the quarterback's parents the next day.