Game Preparation: Breaking Down the Defense

Points of Emphasis for Offensive Game Planning

Hand drawing a game strategy
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A lot of preparation goes into a football team’s game plan each week on both sides of the ball. Coaches spend hours studying the opposition in order to figure out tendencies and gain an edge.

A main key to successful offensive game planning is to discover what you can do to attack the opposing defense while staying within the framework of your offensive strengths. Most defenses have areas of strength and areas of weakness.

A good offense will exploit the defense’s area of weakness while also forcing the defense to stop their strengths.

The most effective types of offenses are well-balanced, with the ability to gain yardage both on the ground and through the air. Proper offensive preparation begins well before the game, and actually starts with proper video break down of the opponent's defense.

Defensive Checklist

While watching video of an opponent’s defense leading up to a game, there are several specific areas for an offense to pay attention to. While watching defensive video, an offense should:

  1. Diagram each formation used by the defense.
  2. Diagram the defense's most-used blitzes.
  3. Keep track of defensive alignments pertaining to situations (down and distance, and field position, e.g.)
  4. Track the instances of the secondary moving into a Cover 3, Cover 2, Man coverage, etc.

Discover the Answers to These Questions

  • What is the base defense?
  • Does the defense substitute players for a specific reason?
  • Are defensive linemen responsible for one gap or two gaps?
  • Is there a defender directly over the center?
  • Is the defensive line slow off the ball?
  • What is the blitz ratio on specific downs?
  • Does the defense stem to get into a new alignment, or is movement just to confuse the offense?
  • Does the defense disguise pass coverage well?
  • What goal line defensive tendencies are there?

Player Focus

It is important for offenses to identify individual members of the defense that they need to be aware of. Offenses often base game plans on such information. For instance, if a particular corner back is very good, the offense will often opt to throw passes to the other side of the field, or if one of the defensive linemen is particularly weak the offense will run directly at him.

  1. Who is the best player?
  2. Who is the weakest player on the line?
  3. Do any linemen have a tendency to stand up instead of firing forward?
  4. Do the players align quickly? (If not, snap on quick count or silent count, e.g.)
  5. Is there a standout cornerback in pass coverage?
  6. Does the secondary supply run support quickly? (Install play-action pass to combat.)

Situation Specifics

Look at how the defense reacts in certain, common situations.

  • Favorite short yardage/goal line blitzes?
  • Is the defense better at defending pass or run?
  • How many defenders are in the box at the snap of the ball?

Game Plan Suggestions

Once a defense’s tendencies are studied and understood, an offense can then run a favorably game plan to highlight their own strengths and the defense’s weaknesses.

  • If there is a 'stud' lineman/linebacker, devise double-team blocking situations.
  • If the defense blitzes a lot, use screen and draw plays to slow down the aggressive defense.
  • When the video shows offensive plays which cause the defense problems, run similar plays within your offensive strategy.
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Your Citation
McCormick, Sean. "Game Preparation: Breaking Down the Defense." ThoughtCo, Nov. 18, 2015, McCormick, Sean. (2015, November 18). Game Preparation: Breaking Down the Defense. Retrieved from McCormick, Sean. "Game Preparation: Breaking Down the Defense." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 12, 2017).