Football Plays: How the 3-4 defense can help stop the run and pass

The 3-4 defense can help stop nearly everything an offense looks to do

Terrell Suggs
Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens sacks Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter of the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoffs game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In the new-age of football, more and more teams are beginning to stray away from a 4-3 defense and instead integrate a 3-4 scheme. Unlike a 4-3 front, a 3-4 defense takes one defensive lineman and replaces him with a linebacker. 

A 3-4 defense features three 'larger' defensive linemen and four linebackers --Two outside, two in the middle. 

While there are many plays integrated with a 3-4 defense, the strong side stunt blitz may be one of the best for stopping both the run and the pass.

The play features a twist stunt between the outside linebacker and the defensive end as well as a delayed blitz by the strong inside linebacker. When executed correctly, the play can become a more formidable one with the perfect timing of the secondary coverage shifting from Cover 2 to Cover 3 at the snap of the ball.

Here's how to run the stunt blitz:

Twist Stunt

The defensive end will shoot the 'C' gap first, with the outside linebacker running off the end's tail and rushing the 'B' gap.

Delayed Blitz

The inside linebacker strong side will delay the blitz to the 'A' gap, focusing on the blocking assignment of the offensive guard.

Back Side Pressure

  • The nose tackle will shoot the back side 'A' gap.
  • The weak side defensive end will rush the 'B' gap.
  • The outside linebacker is responsible for the outside rush lane and the flat area in pass coverage.

Free Hitter

The inside linebacker weak side has cut back responsibility for any strong side rushing plays, and becomes the additional tackler on any other rushing play.

This is also known as the 'free' hitter, as it is most likely that no offensive blocker will be able to reach him in time.

Secondary Shift

To the quarterback, the defensive secondary will have a pre-snap read of two-man deep coverage, or Cover 2. At the snap of the ball:

  1. The strong safety will come downhill to fill the hook/curl pass coverage strong side. He also becomes an additional run support player.
  1. The cornerbacks will drop into deep coverage, and the free safety will rotate into the deep middle to complete the Cover 3 pass defense assignment.

Possible Pitfall

A tight end with superior blocking skills can negate the stunt, and provide the offense a chance to run a successful sweep play to that side of the ball.

Baiting the QB

If the stunt has worked on previous attempts, confuse the quarterback and offensive line by having the inside linebacker blitz the 'B' gap, and have the outside linebacker continue to the 'A' gap.