The release of Madden NFL 25 will be here before we know it. With that in mind I wanted to talk about how to properly build an offensive passing attack. I was reading an excerpt written by Dan Gonzalez (SmartFootball.com) from his book Recoded and Reloaded: An Updated Structure for a Complete Passing Game at Any Level and thought about how we actually go about learning to pass in Madden. It usually consists of hopping into a game and picking random plays, not having any success, and then wondering why we suck. If you are willing to put in the time today we will teach you how to not only pass like a pro but learn how to create your own passing system for the release of Madden NFL 25.
First we need to understand what a passing system is. A passing system is a philosophy of how a team will literally pass the ball around the field. There are numerous types of passing systems: Air Raid, West Coast, Run and Shoot, and a Pro-Style system. Each believes in different ways to deliver the ball to receivers to move the chains.
Gonzalez then questions how and why passing systems are built from the ground up. He believes there are 15 steps in which anyone can build a passing system.
- (1) It gives receivers the opportunity to defeat tight man coverage.
- (2) Prevents conflict between receivers.
- (3) Have a defined timing.
- (4) Stretch the defense vertically and horizontally.
- (5) Keep the QB out of interception danger.
- (6) Deny pattern reading by the defense.
- (7) Keep receivers from free pass defenders.
- (8) Have a principle of route conversion.
- (9) Adjust to condensed field areas.
- (10) Have the ability to isolate certain parts of a pass defense.
- (11) Allow for quick throws when the defense is outflanked.
- (12) Accommodate delays and screens.
- (13) Have set reading concept.
- (14) Have organized scramble rules.
- (15) Have the ability to adjust to multiple formations.
Let’s take a look at what all this means and how it affects your Madden game.
The first point of emphasis is about attacking man-to-man coverage. Offenses must have numerous routes designed to beat man-to-man coverage on every play. It also mentions that the progression of these routes needs to coincide with the timing of the patterns. For example, running a mesh over the middle of the field (two crossing patterns: typically drag routes) is great, but once those routes cross each other your window of opportunity for beating man coverage dwindles. A better strategy might be to run an underneath drag with a deep out towards the sideline. This will allow you to read the drag’s release and follow the pattern directly towards the out pattern as it breaks to the sideline. This is route progression at its finest when attacking man-to-man coverage.
Conflict between receivers can bog down an offense quickly. This means, don’t have two receivers run routes near each other. Make sure there is enough spacing between the routes so that one defender can’t cover two receivers. A classic example of this in Madden is when you have a deep post run by a slot receiver. Then the other slot receiver is hot routed to a streak. We then throw downfield to the deep post because he appears to be open only to have the pass intercepted by the deep safety because he was able to play both the streak and the deep post. This leaves us frustrated and mad at the game. Don’t fall victim to this.
Defined timing is all about making sure that each route on the field can be thrown with the same window of the QB’s progression. This allow for QBs to get into a rhythm with their receivers and build trust and confidence that the receiver will be open when they are supposed to be. When it comes to Madden I see this being more about learning when to throw specific patterns against specific defenses. This means to learn the difference between throwing a 5-yard out and a 10-yard out. They are the same pattern, but there are major consequences if you throw late or too early.
The vertical and horizontal passing game is something we talk about a lot. We all fall in love with the vertical passing game because it produces the biggest and best results. Who doesn’t love throwing 80-yard TDs? What we need to pull from this principle is that we should always be looking to attack short and only take advantage of deep patterns when defenses anticipate short and leave the deep pattern open. This is a major point of emphasis in Madden. Make sure that you always have one vertical pattern on every play. If your opponent forgets for a half second…make them pay.
How many times have you thrown a pass in Madden and immediately upon release knew it was going to be intercepted? That is because we aren’t keeping the QB out of interception danger. This means to always make sure that when we are throwing patterns we are never trailing a receiver and are always leading him. Think about drag patterns. Translate this to Madden when you “throw late in the flat” or if you throw a drag pattern once the receiver has already crossed the face of the QB. It often leads to interceptions. Instead, set up your routes to work together so that your progression is always leading each receiver.
Denying pattern reading by defenses is a major point of emphasis in Madden. This means to make sure that your opponent can’t make a read on a play based on specific routes being run. For example if you are facing the New England Patriots playbook and are going against the Gun Ace Tight Slots formation, you will expect your opponent to run Pats Wheel Drag. As soon as you see those outside receivers break to the flat you know they are running Pats Wheel Drag and can potentially make a user play to prevent any positive results for the offense. However, the opponent is adhering to principle #6 of building an effective passing system and called Gun Ace Tight Slots Stick. The outside receivers are running flat patterns and sit in the wide-open flat. Your user defender is downfield 20 yards waiting for the receivers to break upfield on their wheel patterns, but unfortunately for him the offense has already gained an easy 10 yards in the flat. Denying pattern reading is an important rule that won’t allow your opponent to make user plays effectively.
This is a tricky rule to relate to Madden, but I think I have it figured out. Keeping receivers from free pass defenders is about teaching both the QB and the receiver how to effectively run routes to beat both man-to-man coverage and zone coverage. I believe this can work two different ways in Madden. When running a curl pattern in you will have two different windows to attack defenses. If you are facing zone you will need a flat pattern to pull the underneath zone away from the curl. Once the flat defender is out of the way you can throw the ball immediately. If you are facing man-to-man coverage you will only need to focus on the curl receiver. You need to throw the ball as soon as the receiver makes his cut. The timing is crucial because if you wait too long the defender will be able to recover and make a play on the ball. This differs from real life because receivers will actually change their routes based on the defenses they see. They will adhere to the original route but they might cut it short if they see a zone defender playing the first down marker, and if they see man-to-man they might cut the route inside a bit harder to get better positioning. The Madden equivalent is learning how each route can be effective against each coverage and then capitalizing on the timing for the completion.
Having a principle of route conversion means to always be ready for what you don’t expect. Getting to the line of scrimmage, reading the defense, and then executing can and will work, but against the best of the best expect life to not be so easy. Football is all about deception. Make your opponents think one thing and give them another. That is why you must always be ready for what you don’t expect. For example: It’s 3rd and 5 and you come out in Gun Y Trips 4 Verticals, expecting that your opponent will be playing some type of Cover 3 zone defense to amply protect the short field as well as protect deep. The 4 Verticals call makes perfect sense because we don’t think our opponent will play any type of Cover 4 defense because the down and distance don’t call for that defense. We figure that if the defense is in Cover 2 or Cover 3 we will hit our crossing TE over the middle of the field for an easy first down. At the snap of the ball the unthinkable has happened. Our opponent has called Cover 4, but are we ready? Thankfully we have prepared for this situation and we know that even against a Cover 4 shell we can complete a pass to our TE over the middle of the field. We simply must let his route develop downfield a bit longer and we will make the completion. Always have a plan for the opposite of what you will face. We talk a lot about having a “bail out” route on the field. This means if we expect zone coverage make sure to have one route on the field that can beat man-to-man coverage. Just in case.
Adjusting to condensed field areas specifically targets two different things for our Madden games: the red zone and the hash marks. Depending on where you are on the field you will want to change your game plan. If you are in the red zone it’s not a good idea to run 4 Verticals to try and move the chains. A better idea would be to attack the field horizontally. Your biggest enemy in this area is space, so make sure to adjust your game plan and have specific plays to use here. Most of us recognize the need for red zone efficiency, but I think we forget about what hash mark we are on and how this can affect our system. Just as we are limited in the red zone we are limited when it comes to what hash we are on. Don’t run corner patterns to the near sideline, and don’t forget to space the field evenly. This can be subtle but can make a huge difference over the course of time.
Having the ability to isolate certain parts of a pass defense means to always give yourself the advantage when it comes to the passing game. This calls for signaling out specific defenders to dictate where and when a pass will be delivered. In Madden this defender will always be the user defender. Find him and know where he is going. Not only that, but you need to dig deeper and understand that this user defender is a cog in a machine – your opponent doesn’t have 12 defenders. He can’t user control a defender without it causing some type of result on his side of the ball. For example: If your opponent user controls the FS that likely means that he or she is controlling a defender that is more times than not responsible for the deep third of the field (Cover 3 zone). This means there is an increased chance of deep balls downfield and more bracketed coverage underneath. If your opponent is controlling the SS, this means that he or she is most likely controlling a defender who is responsible for patrolling the middle of the field in robber coverage. This means the deep half of the field has better potential to be covered while underneath will be more exposed (Cover 3 zone). Finally, if your opponent user controls the MLB, know that he or she is controlling a defender that is directly responsible for anything over the middle of the field as well as the defender that is covering the HB in man-to-man situations. This means that the sidelines will be open and that you should utilize your HB in creative ways (Cover 3 zone and 2 Man Under). How does all this knowledge change your actions and decisions on the field?
Get the ball out as quickly as possible even if the defense isn’t set. Your job isn’t to worry about your opponent getting a fair shot at stopping your offense. If you have the advantage in an area, use it. In Madden this means to quick-snap the living daylights out of your opponent. Call your play and get to the line of scrimmage as fast as possible. Snap the ball and complete the pass; this will leave your opponent feeling scrambled all game long.
Accommodate delays and screens. Screens check. Delays not so much. This means to incorporate WR Screens and HB Screens into your gameplan. Somewhere along the line you should make your opponent fear the screen game. Screens are often the safest and most explosive plays in the game. Running delay plays doesn’t mean running HB delay routes, but it means to have the intention of targeting your last read as your main read. I attribute this to user catching in Madden. This means to set up your play and have all your specifics laid out so that if the opportunity arises you can deliver the underneath drag or the backside out. If all else fails throw the sideline fade. The user catch in Madden can be your best friend and it can be your enemy. If you don’t practice, it won’t be apart of your arsenal, and if you do practice it will make your life that much easier when it comes to moving the ball.
Having set reading concepts means to take everything that you know and put it together. Work all the knowledge that you possess to your advantage. Don’t just chuck streaks and think you are good at Madden. To get to the next level you need to fully understand the reasons behind why something is effective and then capitalize when the situation presents itself.
Use a team competitively that has a mobile QB and practice scrambling against max coverage defense. If you think about the most dominant Madden teams of all times, they all possessed a QB who could scramble if needed (04 Falcons, 09 Cowboys, 12 Packers, 13 49ers). This is because they are a 6th option that a defense has to account for. If you face a pocket passer, defenses only have to defend five offensive options. If the QB can scramble, that now creates a dilemma for a defense. They now need to account for a 6th option, and that can drastically change defensive game plans.
Have the ability to run multiple formations but utilize the same concepts. This translates into Madden when we think of throwing out patterns against man-to-man coverage or zone coverage. Typically we like to use a Gun Spread look as it allows us to have balance on the field and attack both sidelines. Rule 15 asks that we mix things up but still for the defense to respect the same areas of the field. This can cause confusion for our opponent and create opportunities for our offense.
For the videos that break down each of these options, click on the heading hyperlinks. They will help you take your passing system to the next level.
Comment below and let us know if this has helped your passing game.!