Madden NFL 2003 for PS2 Defensive Specialist FAQ Version 1.0 written by: Jeremy Watson A small note about this FAQ, this faq will concentrate on strategies only and then extras will be added later. If there is anything I might have left out or you as the reader wants added... E-mail me at email@example.com How to read this FAQ: <Q> Commonly asked questions <Online> Online tip only <tip> General help <4-3> Specfic Formation Tips <Draft> Drafting Tips /\/\/\ New Section <Q> So what exactly does this FAQ cover? This in-depth strategy guide covers defensive strategies for Madden 2003. Since I only have the PS2 version of the game, the strategies are based on gameplay from that system. PC, XBOX, and Gamecube users might not see the same effects. Since defense in obviously the key to becoming a Madden God and the advent of online play has made the Madden world a lot more complicated, defensive strategies are very important to winning and losing. I won't give away any special secrets since I still want to win online (currently 12-7 profile: Watts Online). /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ General Defensive Strategies *** R2 Defensive Preview *** Just like in NCAA Football 2003, Madden 2003 has implemented the use of the R2 button for a look at your defensive scheme pre-snap. This shows what your coverage is and who is blitzing. This is the ultimate tool for learned how each defense is designed and how to use them in Madden 2003. Press and hold R2 pre-snap to see exactly what each of your defensive players are doing and know where your weaknesses might be. <tip> Beginners should play against the Computer to learn how Madden 2003 handles the AI for the defensive players that you aren't controlling. Knowing where the AI might leave you vulernable in each defense can help you make adjustments to correct these problems. <Online> Go ahead and press R2 pre-snap to take a look at your defense if you want, the other player with not be able to tell what your play is because it isn't shown on their screen. <tip> After you have learned what you like to do on defense, make sure you set up your audibles before playing. Make sure you have at least 2 plays to stop the run up the middle and 2 plays to protect against 4 WR and the deep pass. This will make your defensive audibles well rounded for any situation. <Online> A lot of "cheese" online players will do nothing but throw the deep ball on every play. To combat this you need to have at least 2 audibles that you are sure can cover these deep routes. This protects against the "hey I know your coverage, I'll run hurry up offense and exploit your weaknesses" strategy these players use to win games. You'll also need 2 audibles to stop the run up the middle. A lot of players will run a pass play to get your Dime or Quarter defense on the field and then run hurry up into a power run up the middle to exploit your weakness. With a quick audible you can shut this type of player down. *** Pre-Snap Shifts *** You can do a number of pre-snap shifts by pressing button combinations at the line. Here is a list of what you can do (L1+down means press L1 then down): Combo Action _____________________________________________________________________ Triangle+Down Bump and Run coverage Triangle+Up Secondary plays off and deeper Triangle+Right Secondary plays over their covered WR L1+Left/Right DL shifts left or right L1+Down DL pinches down inside L1+Up DL slides outside R1+Left/Right LBs shift left or right R1+Down LBs pinch inside R1+Up LBs slide outside <tip> Shifting you DL to the strong side every play is not the best strategy in every situation. Some players like to run to the weak side of the field making line shifts harder to decide on. Use bump and run carefully, if you blitz the QB while using bump and run and you don't get to him, expect one of their WRs to be wide open deep. If you stay back, expect a timing route to be open. Knowing your opponent will help you decide what to do. If you have safety help in deep zones, I recommend running bump and run. <Online> Shifting your line and changing your coverage in different ways helps to hurt the way your opponent is able to read your defense. You should know enough about your defense to figure out how to confuse the other player and not blow any coverages. *** Situational Substitutions *** Know you player's strengths! Many teams have specialized players with attributes designed for certain situations. You might have a LB with great speed and instincts when it comes to coverage, but he might not have a higher overall rating than your other starting LBs. You might want to try using him in the Dime defense only or on special teams. Franchise mode brings this strategy into play a lot more because you can draft these specialized players in the later rounds and actually get some use out of them right away. Not only is this better for your team, but these players will improve better since player progression is based on stats in Madden 2003. <Online> Stay away from making too many changes to your lineup online. This only causes frustration amongst other players who have to sit there and wait for you to decide on every little detail. 1 or 2 substitutions at the most is acceptable, save this strategy for your franchise. <tip> Try multiple things to maximize your advantage on defense. Do you have 2 great SS? Try putting them both in on the 46 defense. Have more of a slow run stopping DL? Try putting a faster LB as a DE for your Dime defense. In the end it is all up to you, but the fact is that this strategy helps you two fold. First it gives your other non-starting players much needed playing time, thereby keeping their ratings up for the following years. Secondly it keeps players fresh on the field, most importantly against those long drives and late in the 4th quarter when you need it the most. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ General Defensive Styles *** Bend Don't Break *** This strategy works well if you don't mind giving up some yards, but you just don't want to give up any big plays and you want to keep the score down. Dropping at least one of your safeties into a deep zone is a must for this style of defense. Control one of your safeties and try to take away the deep ball by watching the deeper WRs and covering anyone who might have a step deep. If your opponent doesn't use much motion, try using a bump and run while picking a play where one of your LBs blitzes. <Online> If you can take away the deep ball 90% of the time, you'll be able to stop more than 50% of the Online players out there who rely on this play to convert long yardage situations. <tip> For any ball thrown deep, forget about trying to make the INT with triangle. This style of defense is all about not allowing anything deep. Instead, switch to the closest defender when the pass is thrown, get into position and use the L1 button to swat the ball away. You MUST learn how to do this in order to have a great defense on Madden 2003! *** Pressure, Pressure, Pressure, and more Pressure *** This defense is all about one thing, get to the QB and bust up the timing of a pass play. Shift you LBs, bring a safety blitz, bring all 3 LBs, or blitz a CB. Whatever works to get pressure on the QB is a good idea for this defense. Watching the battle in the trenches between your DL and their OL, you might find a way to expoit a weakness that produces pressure without even blitzing. An example of a weakness in the OL is when your best DE gets double-teamed every time unless you pinch your DL down and bring a LB off the corner. This allows you superior DE to break his one on one block and get more pressure. <Online> There are people who live and die by the blitz online. Personally, I find this strategy a little too risky to use every time. I tend to watch for advantages early on, but play a bend but don't break style of defense. Once I know what I want to try, I'll bring the safety or 2 LBs to mix it up. <tip> A simple shift of your DL or LBs might allow you to shoot the gap and get a lot more pressure than a normal setup. Find out what works as early as you can in a game so you take advantage of it later in the game. *** Know the Coverage *** No matter what style of defense you choose to implement, coverage is usually where the game is won or lost. A blown coverage that leads to a huge play is every defensive player's nightmare. If you aren't sure or your opponent uses a lot of motion to confuse your coverage or create mismatches, hold down the R2 button pre-snap to see what your coverage is. <Online> Since different opponents do different things, you don't really have to stick to your zone as much as playing against the CPU. Normally if your safety is suppossed to be in a short middle zone, you had better get there against the CPU, but against a human opponent it is different. Maybe you know after a few series that your opponent likes to throw to their backs in the flat. You might want to control that safety and move into an even shorter flat zone. Whatever you decide against a human opponent, just make sure you've got guys covered, whether or not it might be by design or not. <tip> While playing the CPU, make sure you cover your zone if you aren't controlling one of the pass rushers. If you don't, the CPU will exploit this all day and you'll have trouble stopping anything on defense. The real key to good coverage is matchups. Obviously your opponent is going to try and get a LB on a WR or single coverage down the field deep. You might see a lot of motion to try and get these matchups. If your opponent uses a lot of motion, stay away from the bump and run, because you might get beat deep. One strategy that many players employ is to put a DB on every WR. Watch out for players who have a good reciever in the backfield though and make sure you watch to make sure they get nothing big. Teams like Baltimore and Kansas City use the TE like a 3rd WR and you'll have to watch the matchups you have on these guys every play. If you are going to blitz, try to bump the WR at the line to mess up any sort of timing route. Think about how you like to pass and try to take that away from the other team. Let your defense do the work, but don't expect a shutout every game. Frustration can cause a blown coverage or missed opportunity. If you still aren't sure where to go in coverage, try controlling a blitzer or just let the computer move your guy by not touching the controller at the start of the play. Then make the adjustments you need to stop the offense. As you play more games, you'll get better at knowing where to go. *** Who should I control? *** I've seen players win online with many different styles of play and they all control different players on defense. Some people control one of the pass rushers, while others play a safety to take away the deep ball. Since the camera zooms out so you can defend the deep passes in Madden 2003, any of these choices is a good one if you know your responsibilities before the play. You'll get better at knowing what you should be doing by basically making mistakes and learning from them. I like to control the safety on the big side of the field so that I can protect against anything deep and help support the run. *** Audibles *** You have 5 defensive audibles that you can choose during each game. You should have 2 deep ball and 2 run defense audibles. The 5th can be anything you want, but you'll probably want something that takes away the flats and still covers the run well. With these audibles you should be able to handle just about anything. Remember what personal you have in the game, for example, if you come out in a 46 and audible to a Dime you are going to have 2 LBs playing DB roles. Be careful to know what players are in the game and not audible into something that will put you at a huge disadvantage. <Online> There are 2 major things you just have to be able to defend when playing online, the first is the hurry-up offense. Many players will hurry to the line and continue exploiting the same weakness over and over again. For example, let's say you come out in a Dime and your opponent keeps going to the line and running straight up the middle against the weak middle of your defense. This is why it helps to have a good mixture of audibles. The second thing to worry about is the deep pass/QB run. Players who play with the Steelers, Eagles, 49ers and Rams are famous for running Shotgun and throwing the ball deep all day, especially when they are behind. Sometimes they will send everybody deep and then run with the QB. This is the hardest thing to defend in Madden because the AI struggles to help you. This style of play, know as "cheese" to some is worthy of devoting 2 audibles for you defense against it. <tip> Setup your audibles for each profile in the Options Menu at the first Madden menu. This way you can save them for later use. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ General Defensive Formations The following section details each of the defensive formations, their strengths and weaknesses, and a report card for their grade against different types of formations. The formations are as follows: Normal - Any formation with 2 WRs, 1 RB, 1 FB, 1 TE. This includes sets where both WRs are on the same side of the field. Big - Any formation with 2 TEs. This includes Goaline, Singleback 2TE, and I-Form Twin TE. 3 WR - Any formation with 3 WRs. This includes Singleback and the Shotgun Normal set. 4 WR - Any formation with 4 WRs. 5 WR - Any formation with 5 WRs. *** 3-4 *** Strengths: Flats (if in zone), Runs up the middle (safety blitzes), and passes to the middle of the field. Weakness: Runs up the middle (if in zone), Deep outs and corner routes, and Flats (if blitzing). Report Card: vs. Run vs. Pass Overall Vulnerabilities _____________________________________________________________________________ Normal B+ A- A- Runs up the gut? Try a Safety Blitz Big B- A B+ Runs up the gut? Try a SS Blitz 3 WR A- B- B Deep throws down the middle 4 WR A C+ B Deep outs and corner routes 5 WR A- C+ B Deep Slants down the middle Overall B+ B B Stick to Normal and Big <Online> The 3-4 is better at stopping the inside run than you think. Try using this defense against those players who like to run up the gut all day. Risk bringing a safety or two, then have another 3-4 as an audible as backup in case your opponent also likes to throw into the flats. <tip> Yes the 3-4 will work against 4 and 5 WR passing plays. Most of the zone plays in the 3-4 cover both the short middle and quick out well which is what the CPU likes to do. Online opponents will exploit your zone with a deep corner or out if they have time in the pocket. *** 4-3 *** Strengths: Pressure on the QB, Short passes over the middle, and middle runs. Weakness: Flats (unless you sacrafice the middle), Deep outs and corners, and Toss/Sweep runs. Report Card: vs. Run vs. Pass Overall Vulnerabilities _____________________________________________________________________________ Normal B+ B- B Toss hurting you? Try a CB Blitz Big B+ A B+ Sweep? Try shifting your LBs Pre-Snap 3 WR A C B Deep throws period 4 WR A- F D- Deep and short passes, any pass 5 WR A+ F F Forget it Overall A- C B- Stick to Big and maybe Normal <Online> The 4-3 can be used to get a lot of pressure on the QB and mess up the timing of some online opponents. Most of the people online have a way of countering this style of defense. If you want to risk it, bring the house and hope for a sack. Otherwise I really don't like this defense much at all. It doesn't really stop anyone because everyone is ready for it. *** Nickel *** Strengths: Pressure on the QB, Short passes over the middle, and middle runs. Weakness: Flats (unless you sacrafice the middle), Deep outs and corners, and Toss/Sweep runs. Report Card: vs. Run vs. Pass Overall Vulnerabilities _____________________________________________________________________________ Normal B B B Toss to weak side and middle runs Big C- B+ C Up the gut hurts 3 WR A- B+ B+ Flats are hard to defend 4 WR A- B- B Corner routes, Flats 5 WR A- C- C One WR will be open Overall B B- B- Too many weak spots to use much <tip> The Nickel keep you safe from anything over the middle, but does a poor job of covering the outside WRs. You can get very frustrated trying to cover everybody even against a Normal formation. Stay away from this defense except when you are sure it will work. *** Dime *** Strengths: 4 DBs for coverage, Protects against the deep ball, and blitzing DBs work very well. Weakness: Flats (if you blitz), Runs of any kind, and comeback routes (zone). Report Card: vs. Run vs. Pass Overall Vulnerabilities _____________________________________________________________________________ Normal C+ A- B- Any run is dangerous Big D- B+ D Runs and quick passes to the TE 3 WR B A B+ Flats and Draw plays 4 WR B+ A A- Watch the back out of the backfield 5 WR C+ A- A- Watch the run by the QB Overall B- A- B+ Runs and QB draws <tip> If you are good, you'll probably be using the Dime defense or a variation of it about %50 of the time. Play both zone and bump and run type coverages throughout the game to keep your opponent off guard. Blitzing can work wonders as well. Don't give up on a blitzing Dime stopping a running play, it has been known to happen. <Online> You need to watch out for both the deep ball and the QB draw when playing online. This is one of the hardest things in the game to stop. Why do you thing everyone uses the Steelers or the Eagles? The easiest way to protect against these two options is to use a Dime and blitz a player who is fast enough to get the other team's QB before he throws or scrambles. *** 46 *** Strengths: 8 men in the box vs. Run, Blitzes, and any pass that takes time. Weakness: Quick slants and outs, corner routes (if you don't blitz), and Screen passes. Report Card: vs. Run vs. Pass Overall Vulnerabilities _____________________________________________________________________________ Normal A A- A Quick slants (don't blitz so much) Big A- A- A- Screen passes and Corner routes 3 WR A+ B- B+ Screens and any quick pass 4 WR A+ C+ B- Any pass unless you get pressure 5 WR A F D- At least 2 WR open right away Overall A B- B+ Quick passes mostly <Online> Many players will use a variation of this defense all game long online. Shifting the line and LBs to break in for the sack even though it can be beat easily with a corner route and both backs blocking. It is a great defense that limits the run and gets so much pressure that you are forced into a quick pass. Stay away from it online, if you play anyone who knows how to beat it. <tip> Experiment with this defense against the CPU and see what you like best about it. The 46 is great against Normal and Big sets, you might want to protect against the screens though. *** Quarter *** Strengths: 7 DBs take away the deep Fly routes, Middle of the field is blanketed, and and run to the outside. Weakness: Deep corner routes, any run up the middle, and QB draws. Report Card: vs. Run vs. Pass Overall Vulnerabilities _____________________________________________________________________________ Normal D B- C- Up the gut runs and quick pass to TE Big F B- D- Forget it 3 WR C- A- B Deep corners, draw play 4 WR D A- B In routes down the field, QB draws 5 WR D- A A- QB draws and 5th WR deep corner Overall D A- C+ Run situations are a no go <Online> Quarter is great to stop the pass online, but a lot of online players will counter this by running with the QB. This makes the Quarter less useful and the Dime more attractive in online play. I use it only if it is a long way to the first down. <tip> Since you don't have to worry about the QB draw against the CPU as much, the Quarter is a very good option for stopping passing teams. Blitzing out of the Quarter usually forces the CPU to make a quick throw. Don't expect the deep ball when playing the Quarter. *** Goaline *** Strengths: Fill every gap and shutdown the Run. Weakness: Fade routes, Deep Fly routes, any pass where the QB has time, Toss/Sweep (if you blitz inside) Report Card: vs. Run vs. Pass Overall Vulnerabilities _____________________________________________________________________________ Normal A+ C- A- Watch the Toss and deep Fade routes Big A B- A- Watch the #2 TE 3 WR A+ D C- 3 WR will get wide open 4 WR A+ F F Forget it 5 WR A+ F F Forget it Overall A+ D- C+ Any pass with 2 seconds time <Online> You are going to need a run stopping defense for those players who like to run hurry-up pounding running type games. What they do is get you into a pass defense and audible to a running play or hurry-up so you can't change your personal. Personally I like the 3-4 to accomplish this task, but some of you might want to go with the Goaline. *** Punt Returns *** Make sure you are ready to make a fair catch (triangle) in case your blocking breaks down. For the most part, kicks are difficult to block, but you can go for it if you want. <Online> Don't assume that your opponent will ever punt on 4th down. %25 of the online players out there will go for it every time, many will try a fake at least once especially if they are ahead. Just be aware that your online opponents don't have to play it safe if they don't want to. *** Field Goals and Extra Points *** No I don't know how to block these yet. The blocking is usually solid no matter what. Your only hope is to break through the middle on the snap and get a hand up. Good Luck. <Online> As with punting, don't expect online opponents to ever kick Field Goals unless it is a game winner or something. Always be ready for an audible or a fake. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ Advanced Defensive Play Calling This section contains some of my favorite defensive plays and how to use them effectively. *** 3-4 Drop Zone *** This defense covers the short zone with all 4 LBs, rushes only 3 and, puts 4 deep in a zone. This play even works against 4 WR sets and is decent against the run. Expect only 4-5 yards even up the middle and nothing short. The deep middle zone might be a little weak, but if you control a safety you can defend it yourself. *** 3-4 Man Zone *** Want to shut down the flats and screen passes? This defense puts your 2 OLBs into flat zones and covers the deep ball well. Expect 4-5 yards on up the middle running plays and 1 WR to be one on one deep. You only have 3 rushers, so you'll need to defend the deep pass by controlling a safety. *** 3-4 SS Blitz *** Want to stuff the inside run with a 3-4 defense? Your SS will move up to the line pre-snap for the blitz making this defense a lot like the 46. This will probably make you opponent either audible or get stuffed for only 1-2 yards up the middle. A great run defense and useful for a punt return, if you want to go for the block. *** 4-3 Man Under *** I like to use this defense against the CPU when then come out in a Singleback 2TE set. This defense matchs up with that formation well, but against online opponents it doesn't work very well. *** 4-3 Whip Man *** Yes, the old staple from Madden 2002 that everybody knew about. It is still works well and gets a lot of pressure on the QB, but it is isn't as good as some of the other plays. You can try shifting your line and LBs to gain an advantage, but this year's Madden doesn't give up sacks to this defense. *** 4-3 Fire Man *** Another blitz out of the 4-3 makes it hard to run inside. If you oppponent can get outside the tackle though, it may backfire. The flats are probably going to be wide open as well so watch out for that with a safety. *** 4-3 Strong Zone *** A simple strong zone that does okay on a 1st down if you don't mind giving up 5-10 yards. If you like the 4-3, you should try mixing this or another one of the 4-3 zone defenses into your arsenal. *** Nickel Man Lock *** Sort of a base Nickel defense achieves good coverage, but no pressure on the QB. Expect a WR to eventually get open and use your safety to provide support. I usually only use this against the CPU, because human players can dimantle this defense. *** Dime LB Blitz *** Shift you DL to pinch inside (L1 then down) and watch as your 5 rushers cause chaos up front. Remember you are blitzing so you'll need to jam the WRs at the line and help support with the safety. If they send a back out for a pass, you'll have to cover him with your safety yourself. *** Dime CB Blitz *** Blitzing your CB from the outside make work if your opponent doesn't leave a back in to block for his QB. The speed of this CB negates the QB draw and usually forces a deep pass. Jamming the WRs will throw any timing route off the mark. *** Dime Pinch Zone *** A zone blitz of sorts, is a godd change of pace from the above 2 plays which require man coverage. If you'd rather play zone, this is the defense for you. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ Defense and the Draft When playing in Madden 2003's franchise mode, you need to draft rookie players that will help your team win. Expect the CPU to pick these positions first: CB, DE, DT and MLB *** Who should I draft??? *** Should I go out and get the best CB with my 1st pick? Should I pick faster LBs or slower/smarter LBs? Personally I like picking great LBs because I like to run in the 3-4 defense. Besides even if your rookie LB doesn't start right away, you can use them effectively on special teams. The final decision is up to you and that is why Madden is such a great game. Think about who you really want. Yeah maybe there is a great CB in the draft, but he is only 5'9'' and you think he might get strong armed by bigger WRs. Do you really want to trade up to get him in the draft? <tip> If you are planning on winning most of your games, trade your 1st and 2nd round picks to another team for their 1st and 2nd round picks. The other CPU controlled team will always make this trade and at least you won't end up with the 32nd pick in the 1st round. You can do this for all of your picks before week 6 in the regular season. *** Should I make defense my first priority in the draft??? *** In a word, YES! Defense seperates the decent Madden players and teams from the greatest Madden ballers. A good defense will keep you in games. Remember that you can only control one player on defense, while you actually control the main playmaker on offense. This means the CPU AI takes over for you on the other 10 guys, leaving a lot of room for error. Unlike the offense, where all you really have to worry about is the blocking, defense has 10 other guys who sometimes make mistakes. ############################################################################# Defensive Tips ############################################################################# This section contains my tips for improving your defensive players through free-agents and draft picks. I highly recommend that you not use this section and develop your own strategy because this part of the game is the most fun. ############################## Who to draft??? ############################## There is a lot of debate on what position to draft first. Should you use your #1 pick to always get the best CB or fill the positions that you are weakest. Believe it or not, I say that the LB position is the most important position on defense and in the game. You can get a variety of specialist LBs to handle situations and make your defense very tricky. Although CBs are much coveted in the game of Madden, I've noticed that there isn't much difference between a 75 overall and an 85 overall CB. There is a huge difference bewteen a 75 overall LB and an 85 overall LB however. A LB with 72 speed might have 7 sacks in a season and 8 passes defenced, while one with 67 speed will only record 3 sacks and 5 passes defenced. This could be the difference between a win and loss in more than one game. So who should you draft? Basically draft what you want. If you'd rather have that CB who 6'2'' but a bit slower rather than a CB who has blazing speed and is only 5'9''. I say go for it. Keep in mind that the computer usually drafts any decent DL and CB in the first and second rounds. After that, just look for specialist players like a third down pass-rusher, a tank of a man to clog the middle, or a speedy coverage LB. Should you make defense your main priority in the draft? In a word, yes! Defense always seperates the good Madden teams from the bad. Think about it, on offense you control the player with the ball and you can make up for a bad player with weak stats. On offense there are really only two things you can't make up for, one is poor blocking and the other is dropped passes. On defense, however, you control only one player at a time, some of your players are sometimes off the screen and sometimes you just get blocked into the ground. Since most of your defense is computer controlled, you want the best computer controlled players you can get. *** What about Free Agency??? *** Free Agents can save your team. Watch for a lot of rookie to be available after the draft because team's couldn't afford to sign them. You can usually pick up several 60-70 Overall Rating rookies out of Free Agency. *** Should I consider Trading *** Try swapping players for draft picks or the other way around. The CPU is a lot smart when it comes to trades this year. You can still trade players for draft picks.