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Thinking Man's Guide to Madden
Hellion's Guide to Running/Part 2

Play Calling

Playcalling- Most teams dont win by being predictable. Even if you want to call the same running play 10-15 times a game your offense doesnt have to be predictable. As a general rule, I rarely run on first down in the first quarter of the game. My end goal is to run the ball around 40 times, total. But getting stuffed on first down never helped me reach that goal. Ill have to punt if that happens much. Im pretty good at third downs, even long ones, but the less difficult ones I face, the better off I am. The defense is usually fresh and is run-stop oriented (in terms of its mindset) early in the game, so torch them via the pass early on. Try and mix solid reads on intermediate passes with quick routes to HBs sneaking into the flats early in the game. Its often a good idea to motion the HB to the side hes running his route to and hike it while hes in motion behind the line. This way you get him some separation from the linebackers right off the bat. All he has to watch out for then to the outside is the corner. This is important to the running game because you cant run as effectively if youre not effective in the air, especially early on.

Match your run play calling to your style. If its inevitable that youre going to constantly break runs to the outside and try for the big play, then gamble a little more. Youre going to get stopped for a lot of losses, but have more chances to make big plays. Gambles include Draws, Sweeps, Tosses, Counters, etc. Plays I dont consider to be such gambles are quick mis-directions (HB Belly in the PS2 version), dives, cutbacks, leads, etc. Youre likely to at least get to the line of scrimmage on any of these plays, unless the D makes a spectacular play. If the D just makes a solid play against a toss or a draw, youll lose a couple of yards. If it makes a spectacular play, youre losing 4-6 yards.

Personally, I like to keep the chains moving. I dont use too many gamble runs. To me, a good running attack means lots of 2nd and ones to 2nd and fives. This happens to be my favorite type of situation as an offense to be in against the defense. The defense cant really load up against the run here because its basically a free down to cut loose and the offense knows that. One word of caution, whether youre running or passing on this short second down: Try not to give up the advantage. If you pass, make sure you have a guy back there to block, and if not, make sure you have a dump-off guy in mind. Blitzing is something a defense normally likes to do on 2nd down and short, because it might result in a sack and it might create pressure that drops a back for a loss. Take an extra second before the snap to see if a linebacker gives away a blitz. Audible if you need to flip your blocking back to be on that side. If you run a sweep or some type of gamble play, run away from any area you see a break down occurring, and get back to the line of scrimmage. For instance, on a toss where theres just no hope for contain, immediately cut it to the outside. Dont be patient and wait for stuff to develop on a 2nd and two toss, because you could get dropped for a big loss. Cut it back. You may even get a big gain out of it, but at the very worst youll be 3rd and three. The blockers react to cutback movement well, especially if theyre aware, and there are often times huge lanes available for you to cut back in. Remember this when you are trying to salvage your position on a short 2nd down. Over the course of a season, minimizing big losses is nearly as important as getting big plays in terms of your guys average, and not just in this situation. Similarly, moving the chains by being smart about this situation creates more carries and longer possession for your team over the course of a season.

A quick word about play calling as it pertains to outside running. The cpu usually has that strong safety up close on the wide side if the field. This player is the one guy most likely to blow up a run to the outside. Think about dedicating your team to running outside to the short side. The field is very realistically sized in PS2, and theres space to operate if your blocks go right, and thats much more likely to happen on the short side of the field.

A slightly longer word about play calling as it pertains to weak-side running. In short, its a very useful part of the game plan that some traditional people just cant get used to the idea of. My biggest problem with a strong side run on the PS2 (not speaking of blocking assignments in any type of actual game, Im not a real coach) is that the TE takes the opposing end on almost every play, rather than a linebacker. Even on a straight ahead dive/lead/off tackle, when youd think the advantageous thing would be to have the tackle take on the end and the TE bust straight up for that outside linebacker, it doesnt work like that. Unless you have a huge load of a TE, what usually happens is the end immediately pushes the TE straight back about three yards. If hes an average end, this isnt necessarily good for him because it creates a huge lane; if hes a good or great one, hell often get off that block before you can say hey and your luck just run out. On a weak side run (Im currently the Ravens) I know for sure that Jon Ogden is going to be facing off against that end, and that end aint going anywhere. In fact, since Ogden is so good, that guy often goes down before I get there, and Ogden is off roaming into the secondary looking for more hapless victi (I made it up, the alternate plural of victim). Even if Ogden just holds that guy in place I have the LG against the DT, the C against the MLB and the Fullback leads weak (make sure of this) to pick up the linebacker or safety or whoever is left over. I feel a straight ahead lead to a talented weak-side line in this game is just as good (as a consistent game plan) as running strong side. Furthermore, I dont suggest trying to have any type of quick, light TE if you want to consistently gain yardage via strong-side running. If you run outside, to the weak side, out of single back, make sure you have that WR in motion across the formation and then bring him back and snap right as he gets outside of the linebacker/nickel DB. If you let him go all the way across the formation before sending him back, it will ensure that the strong side of the defense becomes the weak side of where you really want to run when you snap the ball.

A quick word about play calling as it pertains to three and four wide receiver formations vs. the big formation. If youve been successful at running the ball on the last couple of PSX Maddens, you most likely will unconsciously want to use multiple receiver formations a lot because it gave you such an advantage then; it still can, but not in the same way. It spreads out the defense more. But your blocking is also a lot weaker. The cpu doesnt read your plays as obviously in this game, and if you line up on 1st and ten in a big formation the cpu doesnt automatically audible to or call a play that is total run domination every time. Big is really a great option to explore. Your backup TEs are an important part of your football team on the PS2.