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Thinking Man's Guide to Madden
Control the Ball

Please note this is intended for games against a human opponent, and some of the points reflect that.

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Tie game with a minute 30 left in the fourth quarter. You've taken the ball with 3:45 left on the clock and mythodically marched downfield, about to set up either a winning field goal or ram it down their throats for the touchdown. Your confidence is soaring as on a first and 10 you choose the old HB Toss out of the I. Five yards later its second and five.

Take to the air or continue pummelling him on the ground? You can see his tired offensive line struggling for a breathe and call a Single Back HB Plunge. You ram it up the gut for four more.

Bringing up a big third and one with. You sneer as you pick the quick toss out of the Weak I. He has to be looking for Dayne up the guy, so why not try and flip it outside and maybe pick up a few yards extra. He comes out and loads the line, expecting the dive.

Hike! The ball soars out of the hands of your QB and is smuthered by your big, bruising back. He looks out and see nobody, Nobody!, between him and the goalline. Twenty yards later and its celebration time.

So how did you win? Ball control and time of possession - a concept a large majority of Madden players don't understand. They're in a rush to light up the scoreboard and humilate their opponents, but in a match of even teams, the one who controls the clock controls the game.

Ball control offense is about all the ingredients that comprise a winning team. Poise - if you're used to waltzing up to the line with 5 seconds left and making that quick read you'll be better off in crunchtime when that read could mean the game. Execution - you have to know your players, their routes and your plays to be successful. By its nature, running a ball control offense will bring up a lot of third and 5s. Your failure to execute these will mean the game.

But perhaps most of all a ball control offense gives you a psychological edge over your opponent. If a team scores a quick touchdown on a flag pattern a team can write it off. "Lucky score." "All you do is run that same pattern, man." "Well I can get that right back." However eating up 5 or 6 minutes on a scoring drive is much more painful and frustrating. Why? Essentially because you are impossing your will on the opponent. He'll feel helpless. Nothing he is doing is working. And sooner or later, he'll start taking bad gambles - on both sides of the ball. And as the game progresses it gets worse.

There's nothing better on the offensive side of the ball then seeing a defense which is emotionally and physically exhausted. A defense that is so tired they can call the right play and still get burnt for a ten yard pickup on a sweep. And the offense? Well they seem to just get better. Towards the end of the third quarter the other team knows you can move the ball on them. And you know it too. They're at your mercy.

So how do you do this? First of all, take your time. Think about your playcalls and just don't fire off the same 15 players you always use. You have more than 10 seconds to choose your play, so do so. Even if you know what you want, let the clock run down to about 20 before picking your play.

Look at the defense: after a while you tend to pick up on some reads. He look, what appears to be a linebacker is playing way off to the side. Hmm. He's in the nickel? With the way i've been running on him? Alright. Time to play rough.

Other reads can be made too. One of your best friends can be well planned out audibles, mostly in the same formation. Of the seven available I have 5 in the I-Form normal. One is the HB Toss to the left, the other is the HB Lead to the right. A screen (don't forget that streaking WR!), a quick slant pattern and a seam pass to the tight end. The other two are my favorite plays. Make sure you have a good balance of plays, because having a run outside, run inside, quick pass, screen and TE pass covers almost every situation you'd need. And use your two favorites to go up top if you choose to.

So make those read, and if you need too, audible. Also, mess with your opponent a little and get him to over thing. Send that TE away from where you're running to. Use hotstreaks then cancel em, and run it up the gut anyway.

Try to anticipate your opponents playcall: a lot of players don't try to get in the head of their opponent. Set them up for plays. If you've run Dive after Dive on first down, come out in the same formation and use a playaction pass. Chances are you'll beat him for a 1st and 10.

Also, towards the end run when in doubt. Defenses will start to get itchy. The old "well he HAS to pass on this play." If you can pull it off, nothing is more frustrating then getting an 8 yard gain on a 3rd and 5 off a sweep. Nothing!

Now your overriding goal is the move the chains slowly. Sometimes you need to go up top to keep the other team honest, but don't take too many chances. Even if you have to run twice on first and second and fall short, you've still kept that defense out on the field for a long time.

Other tidbits - scripts some plays. I usually have about 25 plays i know like the back of my hand that i run about twice a game. Pick a spot on the list and run them in order. What does this do? First it gets you in a rhythm. second, it will allow you to intentionally set an owner up for heartbreak. You can use this play to set up that one, ect. Third, it will break your natural playcalling tendancies some defenses will pick up on.

Well i gotta run. time to go home ;-)
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BlyGilmore
New York Giants
Commissioner