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Defensive Game Planning

The Defensive Game Plan screen sets your defensive game plan. Defense is done very differently from offense. Defense is reactive, so a plan consists of a set of calls made when the offense presents in a certain manner.

The game plan can be edited during each week of the season. Alternately, the game's AI will do its best to craft a good game plan for your next opponent if you don't want to do this yourself.

If you set the option for the coach to handle your game plans on the Game Options Screen, your game plans are set for you prior to each game regardless of what you do with these screens. This option is on after you install Front Office Football.

A defensive play is a pass coverage, the number of players rushing the quarterback, a decision whether to leave a defender to “spy” on the quarterback and a decision whether to focus a double-team on the opponent's perceived best receiver (a combination of route-running and overall quality).

The defense has a basic front determined by the defensive coordinator: True 34, 34 Eagle, 43 Under or 43 Over. This never changes. It determines the down linemen (tackles and ends) who rush the quarterback on every play. With the 34 fronts, one linebacker almost always joins the pass rush, though this is considered a blitz. Therefore, 34 defenses blitz more than 43 defenses, even though the pass rush numbers are similar.

When a play begins, the offense chooses a personnel package consisting of running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. Since the defense does not know the play call, with the exception of certain third- and fourth-down or late-game situations, the personnel package on offense determines the personnel on defense. If the offense presents with a 212 (two running backs, one tight end, two wide receivers) or a 122, the defense will chose a basic personnel package consisting of a defensive front of seven players (three linemen, four linebackers or four linemen, three linebackers).

The most common offensive personnel package is a 113. The defense will respond with Nickel personnel (one linebacker replaced by an extra cornerback to focus on the wide receiver in the slot). If the offense comes out with 4 or 5 wide receivers, the defense will respond with Dime personnel (another linebacker replaced by a cornerback or safety).

The defensive plan is mostly stored on Strategy Defense screen. The two columns on the right store the plan. There are 38 slots in the plan, and each can store a defensive play. The Normal list refers to most defensive situations. The Red Zone list is used when your opponent is inside your 20-yard line. The 4-Minute list is used at the end of the game when your team is ahead or tied and it's likely the other team is going to pass on every down. This takes precedence over the Red Zone list.

Within the lists, choices are made based on the personnel the offense is using. For the most frequently used personnel packages, there are variations. When you have variation slots to fill, the chosen defense cycles through the list each time that situation comes up. 3rd & Short and 3rd & Long take precedence over the variations, and are used on 3rd downs, and 4th downs when the offense is not kicking. Short means 2 or less yards to go.

To set a play in the plan, choose whether there's a double-team and how many defenders are committed to rushing the quarterback and/or spying on the quarterback in the drop-down selectors in the upper-left of the screen. Then drag a pass coverage into a slot in the game plan. A 34 defense cannot run a Tampa 2 Zone.

The left side of the screen contains scouted information about your opponent. The top receiver in the receiver list is considered the team's best receiver for double-teaming. A double-team is not necessarily two defenders committed to man coverage. It's often a form of “bracketing”, where a cornerback might play underneath the receiver and follow him, and a safety will be in a deep zone, but committed to making sure the receiver isn't going to get a clear run behind the defense.

The alignment Percentages section analyzes your plan and provides an estimated breakdown of how much you will use each variation. The same analysis for pass coverage choices is under the CNT column in the pass coverage list.

The STR column in the pass coverage list is your team's relative strength using that coverage. The + column gives you information about the coverage. Hold the mouse over the blue i in the list, and you'll see a popup detailing how effective each coverage is against various type of offensive plays.

If you hold the mouse over a play name, either in the coverage list or the plan, you'll see a simple diagram of the defensive play.


The Strategy Blitzing screen helps determines which of your defenders blitzes when a blitz is called. Individual blitzing choices aren't included in the game to avoid getting into the chess match of counter-acting a particular blitz with a particular blocking scheme.

The screen lists the starters in the depth chart for each of the major defensive personnel groups. Overall rating, pass rush technique and pass rush strength are shown. You can choose between lightest weight, lighter than normal, normal, heavier than normal and heaviest for each player. Normal blitzing means more blitzes from linebackers than secondary and more from outside linebackers than inside linebackers. In 34 defenses, the weak-side outside linebacker is usually asked to blitz. The weights you choose alter these normal amounts somewhat.

Under the action drop-down, you can have your defensive coordinator change the settings based on his assessment of the team and its opponent.

Analyze Your Defense

The Strategy Analysis screen gives you a look at your basic and your Nickel defensive starters and provides assessments on the defense's strengths and weaknesses. The list on the bottom left shows an assessment of the starting lineup in several categories, along with a + (better) or - (worse) assessment of how the team will perform in various coverage groups. The list on the bottom right shows each individual player, making the same assessments.

You can click on a player entry in the lineup diagram and make a quick change to your lineup. This will change the team's depth chart as well. Since this is a depth chart decision, the option for the coach to handle your depth chart on the Game Options Screen applies. If it's turned on, your depth charts are set for you prior to each game regardless of what you do here.

defensive_game_planning.txt · Last modified: 2023/10/04 04:49 by solecismic