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Adam Hoff
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Adam Hoff

The co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia

The Madden Solution

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Last year, seemingly out of nowhere, the Miami Dolphins starting running a version of the single wing offense that would become known as the Wildcat. Ronnie Brown ran wild (pun intended) for 113 yards and four touchdowns and even threw a TD pass in a 38-13 romp over the New England Patriots. It was appreciated in the moment for an exciting new twist, but also dismissed as a passing fad that would quickly go out of style. This belief was bolstered by events four weeks later, when the Baltimore Ravens snuffed out the Wildcat offense with extreme prejudice. Baltimore made it look so easy to stop, that everyone assumed the blueprint was in place and that the Wildcat was done.

Fast forward to this season, where teams all over the NFL are running the Wildcat. Heck, the Cleveland Browns are ONLY scary on offense when they put Joshua Cribbs behind center and run the Wildcat. While it will never become a base package for most teams - Miami only runs it so much because Ronnie Brown can actually throw further than their quarterbacks (I wish I was joking) - it seems to have some staying power as an offensive wrinkle. It's more shotgun than West Coast Offense, in other words. But I'm sure the shotgun was dismissed at one point, only to stick around and stick around until pretty much every team had a big chunk of the playbook devoted to the shotgun.

If that is the case, how do defenses stop it? Basically, by playing Madden 2010. Not every team has the defensive players that the Ravens have, so it takes a little more imagination than "be aggressive" or "contain the edge." You have to have a quirky defense to stop a quirky offense - just like the nickel came about to deal with shotgun formations and three receiver sets, and the stack looks like the best weapon against the spread formation. Some might say that high school football is the best place to look for such a counter, as the Wildcat is basically a high school formation. Unfortunately though, the Wildcat seems to work quite well in high school, which is why everyone keeps running it. No, we need Madden to solve this one.

To help me out, I got my buddy Jack to go online for a session of Wildcat hunting. The premise was simple: he would pick the Dolphins as his team and run the Wildcat as much as possible, while I would try to stop him with the worst defense that I could tolerate, which wound up being the Chiefs. Things did not go well at first. I tried a base defense, which simply couldn't account for the extra blocker, and Jack was on the attack from the start. When that didn't work, I tried blitzing the inside linebackers, thinking that if I could clog interior running lanes for Brown, he would be forced to go outside and I could swoop in. Nope, just ran around, with fewer linebackers to contend with. When I tried the opposite and sent the outside backers on the blitz, he either handed off to Ricky Williams off tackle or had Brown follow Williams through the hole for big gains.

It wasn't until our third game that I finally landed on the right defense. 46 Cover 2 with a wide defensive line, linebackers with gap coverage, and the middle linebacker designated as the QB Spy. This mix gave me everything I needed. With a middle linebacker devoted to covering the quarterback, I always had a good athlete in pursuit of Brown. Placing the defensive linemen wide gave me automatic containment on the edge. And filling the gaps with linebackers prevented any huge holes. Oh, and there was one other thing that became quite fun to do: use the cornerback to knock his quarterback to the ground and then flank that side of the field. (Ironically, the 46 defense itself was a passing fad.)

So while not every team can be the Ravens and there is probably no way to stop the Wildcat offense every single time, there is definitely a defensive set that levels the playing field. And since coordinators would never stoop to a video game to create schemes, we'll probably have to wait to see these defensive tactics until next season... after all the players spend their offseasons playing Madden 2010.

By Adam Hoff  |  September 30, 2009; 6:51 AM ET  | Category:  Cleveland Browns , Miami Dolphins , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Wildcat's No Gimmick | Next: Here to Stay, But It Needs Some Work

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