I originally wrote this a little over a year ago. It's a discussion of how to generate an effective pass rush in Madden 99. Most of this discussion is applicable to a real football team as well. I've edited it and de-jargonized it somewhat, but if you're confused, try Basics of Defensive Football for definitions and a general-purpose introduction to the subject.

The Idea: Obviously, your goal should be the generation of an effective pass rush by simply having your down linemen stay in their rush lanes. No stunts, no blitzes, no games, just beating the offensive line every single play. The key to generating this sort of pass rush is not the ends. Forget that the ends tend to get the high sack totals. You need the tackles to get penetration and collapse the pocket; at least one DT should always require a double-team. Everyone should know by now that you want DT's to have good STR, AWR, and TAK. You should definitely stick with that formula for one of your tackles. He's your run stuffer, your reader. He should be waiting a little bit before he charges, then sealing the hole on the inside run. On the pass, he should be able to occupy a guard and drive him back.

Unconventional Personnel: Your other tackle should be the guy that actually generates most of your sacks. Get the biggest, strongest, tallest guy you can. Make sure he has good ACC. That's right, good ACC. He needs to come off the ball faster than the offensive line does, drive into the backfield, collapse the pocket, and make the quarterback fear for his life. By collapsing the pocket, he's going to generate hurries, tipped passes, and sacks like crazy. Your ends, I expect you know, should have good AGI and SPD. They're not as important as they're given credit for, in many respects--a good one will improve your defense, but you can get by (and get sacks) without a Pro Bowl-caliber end. So much for the sort of players you should try to get on your D-line.

Non-ideal Circumstances: What if you don't have, and can't/won't get, the type of personnel necessary to have an effective straight pass rush? Well, since you can't outmatch the O-line in terms of quality at every point, you have to either overload them at all points by quantity, or overload them at one point. There are three major means of acheiving this: blitzing, stunting, and zone blitzing.

Blitzing: The advantage to blitzing is that you have more people rushing than the offense can reasonably expect to block. The disadvantage, of course, is that you can get badly burned with the one-on-one coverage that will result somewhere from the blitz. A blitz must be executed with quick players who will not miss when they go for the sack. Be aware of the down and distance situation. If the offense is likely to be gambling, so should you. If they are likely to be conservative, you should relax and contain them under most circumstances. So much for blitzing.

Less dangerous techniques: Stunts and zone blitzing are actually quite similar in terms of their pass rushing effects. The goal of each is to overload some point on the OL, achieve penetration, and force either a sack, a throwaway, or a scramble. Remember, when designing line stunts, that this is your purpose, and think about what holes you want to create. Treat it like designing a run-blocking scheme. Take, as an example, Norselord's Frostbite defense. (Revision note: This defense was designed to abuse the Madden 99 AI like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. It did so quite effectively, based around the stunt outlined below. The original audience was quite familiar with the play and its effectiveness.) The tackles are rushing to the outside, taking the guards with them. The ends stunt around to the inside, where the center can't block both of them. The offensive tackles are picked off by their guards if they attempt to stay with their men, and the AI doesn't seem to have zone blocking implemented yet. (What should happen on this stunt is that the tackles pick up the tackles, and the guards and center take the stunting ends.) This may seem obvious, but remember to consider where you want to create pressure and how you're going to exploit the offense's vulnerabilities when you design stunts. Also remember that a stunt creates pressure one place in exchange for pressure someplace else. A stunt like the one in the Frostbite should be somewhat vulnerable to the outside running game and the quick swing passes to the backs, because the DE's are out of position.

Unorthodox, but effective: Finally, we come to the zone blitz. Why would you use a zone blitz? After all, it drops a lineman into coverage and rushes a LB or DB.

Well, the way I look at a zone blitz is as a slightly more complicated stunt that leaves the defense in a better position to stop the run. You are once again attempting to overload a portion of the OL. Consider the 4-3 gut blitz. This has two LB's blitzing the middle, with the DE's dropping into the hook curl zones that the LB's are vacating. This gains you pressure up the middle in the same way that the Frostbite does--four defenders are rushing the area that three blockers ordinarily cover. However, if the defense reads run, the DE's will stay at home and shut down the outside, instead of stunting to the inside. The pressure may not be quite as good, but the containment will be better.

"But," you say, "it's a zone blitz. That means I have to play zone, doesn't it?" Yep. Remember, though, that a zone can only be picked apart by a QB with time to throw, and by receivers with time to get to the seams. Play a zone blitz with bump-and-run on the corners, and you'll be surprised at how hard it is for the CPU to break a long one.

Originally posted on The Thinking Man's Guide to Madden.

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