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This module is for educational purposes only and does not represent the gameplay experience of EA’s Madden NFL products or services. The mark 'John Madden' and the name, likeness and other attributes of John Madden reproduced on this product are trademarks or other intellectual property of Red Bear, Inc. or John Madden, are subject to license to Electronic Arts Inc., and may not be otherwise used in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Red Bear or John Madden.

The videos in this interactive are designed to provide general feedback and do not necessarily correspond to actual mathematical outcomes as they would be represented during an actual game of football.

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Learn how the plays work and then try the winning drive yourself!

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Game Description

Have you ever wanted to know which types of passes to use in certain football situations? How about which defensive formations to use to stop these types of passes? With EA Sports Madden NFL: Football by the Numbers now you can!

As you explore offense, you’ll learn about the lob pass, bullet pass, and touch pass and discover how the quarterback's throwing angle and arm velocity affect pass completion.

You will get a chance to apply what you've learned as you drive down field for a game-winning touchdown.

Game Description

As you explore defense, you’ll learn about man-to-man and zone defenses, as well as the blitz, and discover the role of probability and force in choosing and implementing defensive plays. Using probability and force, you’ll apply what you’ve learned as your defense works to stop the opposing team in their tracks.

WINNING DRIVE EXAMPLES

Lob Pass

Watch New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning throw a 32-yard lob pass to Odell Beckham Jr. to set up the game-winning touchdown.

WINNING DRIVE EXAMPLES

Bullet Pass

Watch Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throw a bullet pass to wide receiver Jordy Nelson for a 1-yard touchdown.

WINNING DRIVE EXAMPLES

Touch Pass

Watch Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles take a touch pass from quarterback Alex Smith for a touchdown.

WINNING DRIVE EXAMPLES

Man-to-Man

Watch New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler's quick reaction time, intercepting quarterback Russell Wilson and stopping the Seattle Seahawks’ drive to win Super Bowl XLIX.

Introduction to Offense

The team on offense has possession of the ball. The goal of the offense is to advance the ball down the field with the intention of scoring points, either by a touchdown (6 points) or a field goal (3 points). The offense gets 4 chances – or downs – to advance the ball at least 10 yards in order to secure a fresh set of downs (first down). Each time the team successfully gets a first down, they get an additional 4 downs to advance another 10 yards until they score or are stopped by the opposing team.

The offense consists of 11 players – 5 offensive linemen and 6 skill players. The offensive line consists of a center, 2 offensive guards, and 2 offensive tackles.

Introduction to Offense

The offensive line blocks the opposing team to keep them away from skill players. The skill players consist of multiple arrangements of a quarterback, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. The skill players are eligible to handle and advance the ball.

Any combination of offensive players may be used, as long as there are at least 7 players on the line of scrimmage (usually 5 linemen and 2 tight ends) and no more than 4 skill players behind the line of scrimmage.

Introduction to Defense

The defense is the side that does not have possession of the ball. The defense tries to stop the other team from scoring points or gaining field position. They do this by preventing the opposing team from converting 1st downs and forcing them to punt. The defense can also cause a turn-over through a fumble or an interception.

The defense consists of 11 players - defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. The defensive line rushes the passer and stops running plays. Behind the defensive linemen are 3 or 4 linebackers, depending on the type of defense being deployed. The job of the linebackers varies by position and player and includes rushing the passer, stopping running plays, and covering receivers on passing plays. The defensive backs – or the secondary – play behind the linebackers or on the edges of the field.

Introduction to Defense

The defensive backs include cornerbacks, who cover receivers during passing plays, and safeties who act as the last line of defense against offensive players who have broken free from their defenders.

Depending on the type of defense being deployed, there may be 3 defensive linemen and 4 linebackers, known as the 3-4 defense, or 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers, known as the 4-3 defense. If there is a fifth defensive back on the field, this is known as the nickel formation with the back referred to as the nickelback. A dime package has 6 defensive backs.

CHOOSE YOUR CONFERENCE

Click on a conference
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AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

In 1960, the American Football League (AFL) was born and consisted of 8 teams. By the time the AFL merged with the NFL in 1970 two additional teams were added and the AFL was renamed The American Football Conference (AFC).

In an effort to even out the two conferences, 3 teams were moved from the newly created National Football Conference (NFC) to the AFC. After numerous team changes, the AFC now consists of 16 teams with 4 divisions of 4 teams each.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won more championships than any other team. In 2008, the Pittsburgh Steelers won their 6th Super Bowl title when Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a touchdown pass to Wide Receiver Santonio Holmes to beat the Arizona Cardinals in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIII.

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

The National Football Conference (NFC) began in 1920, known as the American Professional Football Conference (APFC). In 1922, the APFC was renamed the National Football League (NFL). The NFL was the premier professional football league until the American Football League (AFL) was founded in 1960. By the time the NFL merged with the AFL in 1970 the NFL consisted of 16 teams. In an effort to even out the two conferences, 3 teams were moved from the newly created National Football Conference to the AFC. After numerous team changes, the NFC now consists of 16 teams with 4 divisions of 4 teams each.

The Green Bay Packers are the winningest team in NFL history with 13 league championships, including 4 Super Bowl wins and 9 NFL titles. In 2011, the Green Bay Packers won their 4th Super Bowl title when their defense held strong and stopped the charging Pittsburgh Steelers in the final minute of Super Bowl XLV.

In this section you will learn about several different types of passes. Each pass has its own distinct characteristics and purpose.

  • Lob Pass
  • Bullet Pass
  • Touch Pass

Down by 5 points with 50 yards to go? Need to pick up a lot of yardage on your next play to stay in the game? This is the time to go deep with a lob pass and an aggressive catch!

A lob pass has a high arc with a lot of hang-time and a lot of power. It is primarily intended for a wide receiver along the sideline with outside position. This type of pass works great against a man-to-man defense when your wide receiver can make an aggressive catch against a weaker cornerback.

Watch New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning throw a 32-yard lob pass to Odell Beckham Jr. for a first-down to set up the game-winning touchdown.

In this section you will learn about several different types of passes. Each pass has its own distinct characteristics and purpose.

  • Lob Pass
  • Bullet Pass
  • Touch Pass

It’s 3rd down and 5. Your wide receivers can’t shake their defenders and the safeties have the middle of the field covered. Now is the time to drop your receiver underneath the secondary and rifle a bullet pass for a first down!

A bullet pass has a low arc and minimal hang-time with a lot of power and speed and is primarily intended for a tight end running underneath the defense. This type of pass works great against a zone defense.

Watch Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers throw a bullet to Wide Receiver Randall Cobb for a 1- yard touchdown.

In this section you will learn about several different types of passes. Each pass has its own distinct characteristics and purpose.

  • Lob Pass
  • Bullet Pass
  • Touch Pass

Your wide receivers are covered, your offensive line is starting to crumble, and linebackers are grabbing at your jersey! Now is the time for a touch pass and a run after catch!

A touch pass is best used as a checkdown when your quarterback is being rushed or you want to move the chains with a run after catch. A touch pass can have a low or high arc with low power and is primarily intended for a running back waiting outside of the pocket. This type of pass works great against a blitzing opponent.

Watch Kansas City Chiefs Running Back Jamaal Charles take a short touch pass from Quarterback Alex Smith for a touchdown.

Learn

There are two factors that affect the distance a thrown football will travel - the horizontal motion and the vertical motion. The quarterback tries to control the horizontal and vertical motion of the football by changing the velocity, or speed, at which he throws the ball and the angle at which he throws it. Let’s take a closer look!

Velocity

Velocity is a term used to describe both the speed and direction of a moving object. A quarterback’s receivers are always in motion, trying to get in the perfect position to catch the ball. So when a quarterback throws the football, he tries to throw it in the right direction at the right speed. Velocity is very important to quarterbacks and receivers (and to defensive players trying to intercept the ball)!

Velocity

Sometimes the quarterback has to throw a long pass and sometimes he has to throw a short pass. But the quarterback doesn’t have time to calculate the perfect velocity! Instead, he applies his hours of practice and his knowledge of the game to make the best pass decisions possible.

As you might expect, the higher the velocity at which a football is thrown, the farther it will go. But velocity isn’t the only factor in determining the distance a thrown football will travel.

Angle

You might think that if two quarterbacks throw footballs with the exact same velocity, their footballs will travel the same distance. Not necessarily! There’s another important factor that plays a role in determining how far a football will travel – angle.

Angle

Think about what happens if you throw a football straight up in the air. It will fall straight back down, either into your waiting hands or onto the ground.

Angle

What if you throw a football at a downward angle? The football will hit the ground before it can travel very far. This kind of pass may even result in an Intentional Grounding penalty.

Angle

The quarterback will not move the football down the field if he throws in either of these ways, so in addition to velocity, he thinks about throwing angle. A ball thrown at a steep angle will take longer to reach a receiver than a ball thrown at a lower angle.

This is known as hang-time. A long hang-time allows a receiver to make it down field to catch a long pass. A short hang-time will allow the pass to be completed before the defense has time to react.

Angle

Can you find the angle that will make the football travel the greatest distance down field?

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Correct!

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In this section you will learn about several different types of defenses. Each type of defense has its own distinct characteristics and purpose.

  • Man-to-Man
  • Zone
  • Blitz

The opposing team is in your red zone on the 8-yard line. Time is ticking down and you know the bullet pass is coming across the middle just inside the end-zone. Time to cut the route and play the ball for a pick to save the game!

In man-to-man defense, each player has the responsibility to defend an individual player. This defense has the advantage of allowing the best defensive player to guard the best offensive player. It also allows more pressure to be put on the quarterback, since the defensive line can pass rush at least one unguarded man. One disadvantage is that it can expose weaker defensive players who may not have the help they need if they lose their assigned man.

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Watch New York Giants' Quarterback Eli Manning throw a 32-yard lob pass to David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII for a first-down to set up the game-winning touchdown.

In this section you will learn about several different types of defenses. Each type of defense has its own distinct characteristics and purpose.

  • Man-to-Man
  • Zone
  • Blitz

The offense is moving the chains by setting up screens and throwing soft touch passes. Now is the time to switch to a zone defense, hit the receiving running back in the backfield and cause an incomplete pass.

In zone defense, players are responsible for covering a portion of the field – or zone. This type of defense has the advantage of shared responsibility and a more even defense across the field. Depending on the type of zone being deployed, there will be defensive players preventing speedy receivers from making their way down the field to catch a long pass. One disadvantage of the zone defense is the inability to pressure the quarterback without leaving gaps in defense downfield.

scroll to the bottom to continue

Watch Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers throw a bullet to Wide Receiver Randall Cobb for a 1- yard touchdown.

In this section you will learn about several different types of defenses. Each type of defense has its own distinct characteristics and purpose.

  • Man-to-Man
  • Zone
  • Blitz

It's 3rd down and 10 and the offense has lined up with 4 wide receivers and no backs. You know the deep ball is coming and your cornerbacks have been getting beat all night. Now is the time to bring everyone you’ve got after the quarterback and force a bad pass. Now is the time for a blitz!

In a blitz play, extra defenders rush the quarterback. The idea of a blitz is to have more defensive players going after the quarterback than the offensive line can block, resulting in either a loss of yards through a sack or loss of down through an incomplete pass. It is used to apply additional pressure to the quarterback in an already high-pressure situation. One disadvantage of the blitz is that it leaves undefended offensive players who can make large gains if the blitz is unsuccessful.

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Watch Kansas City Chiefs Running Back De'Anthony Thomas take a short touch pass from Quarterback Alex Smith for a Touchdown.

Learn

The defense lines up on the field, ready to pounce the moment the quarterback snaps the football.

But how does the defensive coordinator choose the best defensive play? How do the players make the plays work? Defensive coordinators consider a number of factors when choosing plays. Once the ball is snapped, it’s up to the defense to apply the right amount of pressure to stifle the offense and stop them from moving down the field. Let’s take a closer look!

Probability and Defensive Plays

Probability is a measure of the likelihood that an event will occur. The probability of an event occurring is expressed on a scale between impossible (not going to happen!) and certain (definitely going to happen!). Probabilities can also be expressed as a percentage between 0% and 100%.

Defensive coordinators weigh a number of factors when selecting the defensive play they think will have the highest probability of success. They try to predict whether the offense will run or throw the ball. They consider down, distance, and offensive patterns. They also consider their own players’ strengths and the type of offensive personnel on the field. Consider the following examples:

Probability and Defensive Plays

  • A quarterback with 2nd down and 15 yards to go is likely to throw the ball to pick up yardage. In that case, the defense may decide that a zone defense has the greatest probability of success.

  • A quarterback with 3rd down and 1 yard to go is likely to hand off the ball to the strongest running back to push the ball over the yard line for a 1st down. In that case, the defense may decide that a man-to-man or blitz defense has the greatest probability of success.

It is important to know that choosing a defensive strategy is highly situational and depends on a number of factors. As a result, there’s a high probability that coaches and players on both sides use probability to predict what the opposing team might do!

Tackling with Force

About 100 times a game, players are tackled and knocked to the ground. A good tackle can stop a running back or wide receiver in his tracks and even cause an incomplete pass or a turnover. As you might expect, it takes a lot of force to take down a 230 pound running back! But, what is force?

Force is the product of mass and acceleration and can be expressed as the equation F=ma. To calculate force, multiply mass and acceleration.

In tackling, mass is the weight of the defensive football player and acceleration is how fast that player is moving at the initial point of contact.

Tackling with Force

Once the tackling player makes contact, acceleration decreases as both players slow down. At the moment of impact, however, the defensive player hits the offensive player with a great deal of force. You might think that heavier players are the best defensive tackles but sometimes their higher mass costs them acceleration!

Defensive players try to accelerate as much as possible before making a tackle to maximize the amount of force. They also try to aim their tackles to effectively stop the opponent while keeping both players safe. A well-placed and well-timed tackle can be the difference between a first down and a punt!

Man-to-Man

Man-to-man defense is when each player has the responsibility to defend an individual player. Although man-to-man defense can be used at any time during a game, there are game situations in which this defensive strategy may have the highest probability of success. Consider the following scenarios:

  • It’s 1st down and the offense has their best wide receivers on the field. The defense thinks there is a high likelihood the quarterback will throw a pass and decides man-to-man coverage has the highest probability of success.

Man-to-Man

  • The quarterback has a history of throwing short bullet passes to score in 4th and goal situations, so the defensive coordinator thinks man-to-man coverage has the best chance for success.

  • It’s 3rd down and 6 and the defensive coordinator wants to prevent the offense from converting. He decides to try to stop the quarterback from passing the ball to his quick receivers and believes man-to-man coverage has the best chance of success.

Zone

With zone defense, each player is responsible for a portion of the field. This coverage works great to prevent the run in certain situations, or run after the catch, after a touch pass to the flat. Although zone defense can be used at any time during a game, there are game situations in which this defensive strategy may have the highest probability of success. Consider the following scenarios:

  • It’s 3rd down and the offense has only inches to go before first down or goal. The defensive coordinator thinks it’s highly likely the offense will run the ball, but he’s not sure who the quarterback will hand off to. He decides that zone coverage has the best chance for success.

Zone

  • It’s late in the game. It’s 2nd down with 5 yards to go for a first down. The defense thinks that putting the fastest defenders in a zone coverage is the best strategy for stopping an offensive run or pass play.

  • It’s 4th down and 1 yard to go and the quarterback needs to convert to keep his team in the game. The defensive coordinator is sure that the quarterback will hand off the ball to his strongest teammate to push the ball over the line for the down. He decides that zone coverage has a high likelihood of preventing the conversion.

Blitz

With a blitz play, the defense tries to bring more defensive players than the offensive line can block. This coverage works great to rush the quarterback and get him to make a bad pass, throw an interception, or get sacked. It requires that many defensive players focus on one or two offensive players. If the defense doesn’t stop the quarterback, there’s a good chance he’ll be able to find an undefended receiver down the field.

Although the blitz can be used at any time during a game, there are game situations in which this defensive strategy may have the highest probability of success. Consider the following scenarios:

Blitz

  • It’s 2nd down and 20. The quarterback is struggling and the offense has racked up too many penalties. They’re only losing by 10 points, but it’s the 3rd quarter and they have dwindling opportunities to score. The defensive coordinator decides to take advantage of the quarterback’s mistakes by blitzing, a move he thinks has the greatest likelihood of success.

  • It’s 3rd down and 5. The defense isn’t sure if the quarterback is going to call a run play or a pass play, but they’re down by 14 and want to keep the offense from running away with the game. The defensive coordinator thinks that pressuring the quarterback with a blitz has a high probability of shaking his confidence and interrupting his momentum.

Force

Can you find the force if a cornerback has a mass of 100 kg and accelerates at 8.5 m/sec?

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Correct!

  • Lob Pass
  • Bullet Pass
  • Touch Pass

Angle

0 °

Velocity

0 mph

Use the sliders to the left
to adjust the angle and
velocity of the pass

0 mph
Test Pass

Defense Learn Practice 1:

  • Man-to-Man
  • Zone
  • Blitz

Force

0 N

Testing Coverage...

Correct

Your angle and velocity met the requirements for a

next

< or Try again

SORRY, TRY AGAIN

Your angle and velocity did not meet the requirements for a

 

Retry

Now it’s time to put your passing skills to the test!

Pick which type of pass you want to run. Then choose the appropriate velocity and angle to complete your pass as you drive down the field.

Game Play

Scenario #1

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  • Lob Pass
  • Bullet Pass
  • Touch Pass

Angle

0 °

Velocity

0 mph

Use the sliders to the left
to adjust the angle and
velocity of the pass

0 mph
Slot Cross
Run Play

Scenario #2

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  • Man-to-Man
  • Zone
  • Blitz

Force

0 N

Correct

Your angle and velocity met the requirements for

next

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Your angle and velocity did not meet the requirements for a

 

Retry

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