Written by: *Legion*
Xbox Live Gamertag & GameFAQs username: AvantLegion
version 0.1

--- Contents ---
I. Introduction
II. Defense
	(a) Defensive Philosophy
	(b) Coverage Basics
	(c) Defensive Line
	(d) Formations and Playcalling
III. Offense
	(a) Running the Ball
	(b) Passing the Ball
IV. Smash the Cheese


NFL2K3 is an excellent football game from SEGA and VISUAL CONCEPTS. It
is also the most unforgiving football game on the market. It does not
have the shallow depth of NFL Fever, and it even edges out Madden in
terms of learning curve and difficulty. 

To succeed in NFL2K3, one must know something about football. This
guide is meant to be an in-depth look at football as it applies to

It is not necessary to know everything here to be successful. Some
very successful players know very little of this. However, learning
this material is a sure-fire way to gain a better understanding of
NFL2K3 (and even football in general), and will unquestionably help
you out in your NFL2K3 exploits.

I don't teach cheese ball. Not only is cheese ball lame, but it only
beats players that don't understand the game and can't recognize how
to shut down the cheese play (whether it's a specific playcall or a
way of executing plays).

You'll notice that the Defense section is listed in this guide before
the offense one. That's because defense is more important in this
game. Let that soak into your head, and once you understand it and
believe it, you may continue reading. There are plenty of players
online that can play plenty of offense but no D. The players that can
play defense are the guys that win.



There are a couple of kinds of defensive philosophies in
football. It's good to understand what kind of a player you are (or
want to be), and everything that goes along with that. So here are the

	* BEND, DON'T BREAK: This is my defensive philosophy. The
          "Bend, Don't Break" philosophy subscribes to the line of
          thinking that you want to force your opponent to put
          together a long drive to score - you want to take away the
          quick score. This means playing a lot of pass coverages and
          never leaving a defensive back in one-on-one man coverage
          without help up top. It means not blitzing often, although
          you are encouraged to throw blitzes in here and there as the
          situation allows (like on second-and-long when your opponent
          isn't close to scoring). You have to be calm and not panic
          when your opponent gets 2 or 3 first downs on you. You pay
          attention to everything your opponent runs, and make subtle
          adjustments in your playcalling until you finally shut him
          down on a series of downs. 

	  Advantages: This defense keeps you in games. I don't think
	  I've ever blown out an opponent that was REALLY committed to
	  "bend, don't break" defense. It's also great for shutting
	  down the "one trick pony" players, who rely on a couple of
	  plays to do everything. If you give yourself enough chances
	  to defend against it, you'll eventually figure it out and
	  just take the game away from the other player. This defense
	  also creates a lot of turnovers against players that like to
	  chuck it deep.

	  Disadvantages: You don't really put a lot of pressure on
	  your opponent in  any given play. You won't get many
	  drive-killing sacks. If you do not adjust well, a good
	  player can pick your D apart (adjusting is the most
	  important part of this defense). 

	* ATTACK: This defensive philosophy is pretty much given away
          by its name. An attacking defense relies on blitzes, man
          coverage, and lots of aggression. You don't like no
          steeeenking soft zones. It takes a GOOD pass rush to pull
          this defense off - and great bump-and-run corners helps a
          ton. A great attacking defense changes up the blitzes
          constantly, to throw the opponent off and make it hard to adjust.

	  Advantages: You make it hard for your opponent to run
	  certain plays. They don't  have all day to set up. This
	  defense can create turnovers, and if run well, it can
	  totally bottle up an opponent.

	  Disadvantages: A good player that can handle the pressure
	  can humiliate you with easy  big plays. An opponent that can
	  run the ball well can also beat the blitz with runs that
	  avoid the overloaded areas of the line. 

	These are basic philosophies. There is nothing saying that you
	can't ever play deep zone coverages if you're an "attack" guy,
	or that you can't send an all-out blitz if you're a "bend,
	don't break" player. They are just general philosophies that
	players subscribe to for "most" of the time. There are always
	situations where changing things up is good, and there are
	situations where you might want to totally abandon your normal
	philosophy (if you have a big lead, it's best to ease up on
	the attack, or if you're behind and need to make something
	happen now, you need  to attack).

	It's good to understand these philosophies, recognize what
	kind of player you are, and keep that in mind during games.


There are 3 different types of coverage: zone coverage, man coverage,
and a combination of the two.

ZONE: Zone coverage assigns players to "cover" a certain area of the
field. Any receiver(s) that enter that area are the responsibility of
the player assigned there. 

Advantages of zone: Zone coverage is the most common type of coverage
in today's NFL, and it's for a reason. In any of the areas covered by
zone coverage, there should always be a player there ready to make a
play on the ball. By being sprinkled around the field, zone coverage
men often find that, once the ball is in the air, they can abandon
their zone and go after the ball. As such, you may find two or even
three players making a play on the ball. Receivers often can't use
their speed to pull away from coverage, as they just end up running
*towards* another cover man, and become the responsibility of that
player instead.

Also, when a ball is in the air, it often travels through more than
one "zone". This gives players that are in the ball path a chance to
make a play. If you've ever seen an NFL game where a linebacker that's
a ways in front of a receiver jump into the air and grab the ball,
then you know what I'm talking about. This is known as "throwing
through zones". If a quarterback has to throw through zone coverage,
then there may be one or two players that have a chance to go after
the ball before it even gets close to the receiver.

Disadvantages of zone: Zone coverage cannot cover the entire
field. When calling a zone, players must take into consideration if
they expect a deep pass or a shorter pass. If you call a short zone,
and your opponent calls a deep pass, the receivers may find big holes
in the zone. Likewise, a deep zone often leaves the short pass
(especially passes to the flats) open. It requires THINKING on the
defensive player's part.

Zone is also susceptible to matchup problems. A fast receiver can run
into a zone covered by a linebacker, and the linebacker often can't
move fast enough to handle the receiver. Also, a light cornerback
might be covering a short zone where a pass goes to a fullback, and
the fullback can catch it and steamroll the tiny little corner. 

MAN: Man coverage assigns players to cover a specific
receiver. Cornerbacks are usually matched up on wide
receivers. Safeties are often assigned to tight ends and slot
receivers. Linebackers are often matched up against running backs. 

Advantages to man: Every receiver covered in man coverage will have
someone following him around. If the cover man is fast enough and good
enough to play man coverage well, he can completely erase a
receiver. If the cover man is good enough to stay in good position, he
can jump in front of passes and create interception opportunities.

Disadvantages to man: If a cover man does NOT match up well on his
receiver, then he can be totally abused. If the receiver is faster,
then he can just run away from the cover guy and create seperation. If
the cover man doesn't keep good positioning, then the receiver may be
able to make a catch even if the defender is close to him. Man
coverage also is much easier for a quarterback to "read" - there
usually isn't any cover men to worry about other than the defender
chasing the intended receiver (i.e. no worry of "throwing through
zones", as mentioned above).

NOTE: Too often, I see a player call a blitz play with man
coverage. Well, if you're blitzing, and there's only 4 guys in man
coverage, and I have 5 players going out for passes.... do the
math. One guy will be left completely alone. This is a great way to
beat a player that blitzes every play.

In order to create good defensive matchups, take advantage of the
Defensive Matchup feature in the Game Plan menu. Here, you can pick
what defender covers what receiver. NOTE: THIS ONLY WORKS WITH MAN
COVERAGE! I've seen players keep using this, trying to put their best
man on one of my receivers, but they keep calling zone coverages. In
zone coverage, the defenders don't cover the *men*, they cover the
*area*. But anyway, put your best cover men on your opponent's best
receivers. This is especially important against a team with a great
pass-catching tight end (like a Tony Gonzalez or a Shannon Sharpe). If
you don't put a specific man on those players, then you will probably
end up with a linebacker or nickel corner matched up on them - and
that's bad news for you.

Keep in mind what "nickel" and "dime" coverages are: 5 DBs and 6 DBs,
respectively. If your opponent goes into a 5 Wide package, then you
don't want to be using th 4-3 - if you do, you'll only have 4
defensive backs, and then a slow linebacker will end up matched up
with the 5th WR.

ZONE+MAN: If you understand zone coverage and man coverage, then this
won't be hard to understand. By combining zone and man coverage, it's
possible to create some specialized defenses. There's too much to go
into all at once, but here's some possibilities:

   1) Having two safeties in deep zones (called a "2 Deep" coverage)
   with the cornerbacks and linebackers underneath in man
   coverage. This gives man coverage, but also means that any receiver
   that runs into the deep zones will be covered by both the man cover
   defender AND the safety in that zone.

   2) Having two cornerbacks in man coverage, with the rest of the
   secondary in zone. This allows the defense to put man coverage on
   the offense's 2 best receivers, and have zone coverage handle the
   rest of the field. If those 2 receivers run into an area covered by
   a zone, then they'll be  covered by both the man cover defender and
   the zone coverage man.


When calling defensive plays in NFL2K3, there are two parts: the
defensive line assignment, and then the "coverage" scheme (which
includes, if any, what defensive players are pass rushing in addition
to the D-linemen). 

I'm just going to touch on defensive line strategies, since most of
them are self-explanatory.

    Pinch / All In: These two assignments basically "jam" the middle
    of the line of scrimmage. This is useful in defending against a
    run up the middle, but is weak against a run to the outside.

    Fan: Fan spreads the rush out. This leaves the middle open, which
    is bad against runs up the middle. But if it's a run to the
    outside, it's great. Also, this is a must-have against players
    that like to roll out their QBs. If you call a Fan against a
    roll-out player, then by rolling out, the  player will be running
    *away* from their protection, and will give your defensive linemen
    a straight-on shot at the QB.

    Double-Twist: The Double-Twist is a stunt, and is good against
    outside runs or on plays that take a long time to develop (try it
    against players that drop back a mile).

    Base: Base is, as expected, basic. It's not weak or strong against
    much in particular. Call a Base if you're expecting a run but
    don't know if it will be to the outside or inside.

    Gap Left / Gap Right: If you know a play is going to go in a
    certain direction, call one of these to send the D-line in that
    direction. A lot of times, offensive players run plays to the wide
    side of the field. If you notice that tendency, then keep this
    D-line assignment in mind.


Some do's and dont's:

     (1) DO wait until the offense calls a play before calling your
     play. There is a reason that it displays on your screen the name
     of the package that the offense called. This is what real NFL
     defensive coordinators do: they watch the offense's personnel
     package (i.e. the players that go into the huddle), and keep it
     in mind when calling a play. If your opponent goes into a 5 Wide
     formation, then you want to get your Dime package on the field.

     (2) DO NOT stack the line every play ("Goalline" or "Bear"
     formations). These defensive styles are common, and very easily
     beat. You see, linebackers are a good thing. They're there to
     stuff the run if the running back gets through the defensive
     line. Well, if you put everyone on the line of scrimmage, then
     there's nobody back there to stop the running back once he gets
     through. If you have a good running back and someone plays defense
     like this against you, either try a throw with 5 receivers (they
     probably will have either too few man cover guys, or a very light
     zone coverage that is easily beaten), or just run up the middle
     until you break through. It WILL happen.

     (3) DO try and guess what your opponent is going to do next. Try
     and remember what he's done before, and what package he did it
     with. If he throws corner routes out of a Flush package, then
     when you see he calls a Flush package, you should think about a
     defense that will cover that (hint: either great man coverage, or
     a deep zone where someone is assigned to those deep corners).

     (4) DO NOT panic if your opponent is driving on you. DO change
     your defenses around to try and stop him from doing what's
     working. So many players seem completely unable to *think*. If
     your opponent keeps throwing deep on you, why are you still
     calling those short zones? If your man cover guys are getting
     beat, why are you still calling man coverage? Far too few players
     are willing and able to adapt. 



Most players on XBOX LIVE and PS2 online do not run the ball much, or
at all.

Most players on XBOX LIVE and PS2 online suck.

Think there's a connection?

In fact, there is. It's not impossible to play well without a running
game. However, most good players have an effective running game as
part of their arsenal. In close games, it's often the player that can
run the ball and control the clock that wins.

The first step is to identify what type of running back your team
has. Players like Anthony Thomas (Bears) or Jerome Bettis (Steelers)
are "power backs". Guys like Ahman Green (Packers) and Tiki Barber
(Giants) are "speed backs". Then there are special players like Fred
Taylor (Jaguars) and Marshall Faulk (Rams) that split the difference.

With "power backs", you want to avoid running toss and sweep
plays. That's not your back's strength. You want to run a "power back"
between the tackles - look for "Iso" and "Dive" plays. When a tackler
closes in on you, use the shoulder charge move to plow forward for
some extra yards. I can't tell you how many good players have given me
fits with Ricky Williams and the shoulder charge at the end of a
run. It's like an extra 2 yards that's just hard to stop.

With "speed backs", you can run the ball to the outside. The sweeps,
"powers", and tosses can be great, especially if the defense is trying
to jam the middle. While speed backs won't be as good at pounding the
tough yards up the middle, you can run up the middle in other ways. On
passing downs, lining up in a 3-wide or 4-wide formation and having
the running back run a dive play is a great way to gain yardage. If
you want to run with a speed back, however, you need to learn how to
use your blockers and make *quick* cuts. When it comes to special
moves, your BEST FRIEND is the spin/stutter step move. The stutter
step will foil tacklers that try to dive and reach for you. The spin
can throw off tacklers that get up close, and give you an extra shot
at yardage. Learn to predict when the tackler is going to try and grab
you, and time your move so that you can toss him off.

Now, if you take only ONE thing out of this guide, let it be this:

I can't tell you how many players I've run into who ran the ball well
on their first drive or two, only to abandon it and throw the ball
every play once they're down by 1 or 2 touchdowns. Once you stop
running the ball, you are *very easy* for a good player to shut
down. All it usually takes is sitting in zone coverages and force you
to attempt a lot of passes in coverage - eventually, you'll either
incomplete yourself to 4th down or you'll just throw an INT.

Now, if these players that did this had stuck with running the ball,
they might have scored and made the game 14-7. Instead, they blew
their offensive opportunity, and the game quickly became 21-0... and
they kept trying and kept blowing it, and before you know it, we're at

I also cannot impress enough upon you how important it is to learn to
use your blockers. A lot of people don't understand this. It's hard to
describe, but what you have to understand is that the defenders are
chasing YOU. If you run in a way that puts a blocker between you and
the defender, then do it. The ability to do this is what has gotten me
a lot of my wins. There are plenty of other players that are more
skilled than me at a number of other things, but the ability to use
blockers has gotten me a lot. Remember: anyone wearing the same color
jersey as you is a potential blocker.

Let me try to diagram this with ASCII art:
{ O = running back,  |O| = blocker,  X = defender }

           X -->
     |O| --->     
         O ---->
Here on the sweep play, the running back is outside of the pulling
blocker. The defender is outside of the running back, and has the
angle. While my arrow shows the defender to be running in the same
direction as the back, in actuality, he's running towards the running
back at the same time, closing the distance between them.

In this situation, the running back has two options: keep running to
the outside to try and outrun the defender (something that most
players try, and it's not a good idea, as the defender has the
positioning to cut this off), OR, to cut upfield and let the blocker
make a hit on the defender. 

In a real game situation, the positioning of the players wouldn't be
quite as "square" as it is here. However, the point remains. Most
players see their blockers behind them and think they're useless. They
don't realize that if they would just cut back, the blockers would
"catch up" and be able to throw a block.

This is the sort of using-of-your-blockers that turns a 3-yard-loss
into a 10-yard-gain. This is something that all "good" NFL2K3 players can do.


The passing game is most people's favorite part of a football
game. Everyone loves to be the quarterback and throw the ball
around. Passing in NFL2K3 can be brutal, though, and unforgiving. It's
this that separates NFL2K3 from other football games (like "chuck and
pray" NFL Fever).

FIRST RULE OF PASSING: You will never be a successful passer if you do
not learn and master MAXIMUM PASSING.

SECOND RULE OF PASSING: Pause the game, go into the menu, select
Camera Select, and turn on "Pass play zoom out". You need to be able
to see all of your receivers, and for some reason, Visual Concepts did
not set this "on" be default this year. (I personally don't think it
should even be a choice - you should never NOT be able to see
receivers on pass plays, but oh well).

How does Maximum Passing work? It involves a couple of things:

	* The direction you press the control stick will affect where
          the ball goes - it will "lead" the throw in that
          direction. If you have a receiver running an out pattern to
          the left, you want to be holding Left on the stick as you're
          throwing, because you want the ball to go to the left of
          your receiver.

	* The harder/longer you press the button to pass, the harder
          the ball will be thrown. This is something you need to take
          into Practice mode and work on. If you're throwing a deep
          fade, you'll want to tap it lightly and lob the ball. If
          you're trying to rifle the ball in there, you want to hold
          the button down.

You have to practice this. Practice mode is great because you can just
throw balls over and over without having to run or play defense or anything. 

You must learn to read the defense. 

Rough Guide to Reading Defenses

1. The first thing you look at are the safeties. Are they out in
   space, or are they "lined up" over a receiver? They might be lined
   up on a receiver but still be 10 yards off the line of scrimmage,
   so you kinda have to visually draw a line from the safety on
   down. Also, he can "happen" to be directly above a receiver but not
   in man coverage. You'll get a feel for it after a few. If the
   safeties don't appear to be in man coverage, then you can expect
   them to drop into deep zones. Compare their positions on the field
   to the pass routes your receivers will be running.

2. Next, look at the cornerbacks and linebackers. Even in zone
   coverage, these players will often shift to try and line up "on
   top" of the receiver closest to them. However, if there's nobody
   close to them, you'll see them lined up out in space. Also, if the
   players are indeed lined up in man coverage, then how close/far
   they are from the receivers will indicate if it's tight
   (bump-and-run) coverage, or soft man, or "normal". Whether man or
   zone, compare the positions of these players with the routes your
   receivers will be running. Try and figure out which receiver will
   end up in light coverage.

3. Take your time. Players will shift, and blitzing players will often
   run up to the line of scrimmage if you wait a few seconds after
   lining up. Players (both human and computer controlled) do
   sometimes "fake" blitzing, by rushing the line before the snap, and
   then dropping back into coverage after the snap. If you see a
   player rushing the line, make a mental note of that player.

4. Decide which receiver is your "first read" - the player you think
   is most likely to get open. Figure out who your "second read" will
   be as well. If possible, it's good to also have a "safety valve" -
   most often a running back who is running out of the backfield into
   MUCH easier to figure this out beforehand instead of during the
   play. You don't have time during the play.

Also, know your personnel. Who are your big-play players? Those guys
are most likely to beat the man coverage, or separate from the zone
coverage guys. They can also create mismatches... if your best
receiver is being covered by a linebacker or a nickel cornerback, then
that's a matchup that you want to exploit. Similarly, if you have a
scrub receiver that's being covered by an All-Pro corner, you're not
going to want to throw it there.

(You'll be doing all of this within a few seconds. It takes a bit of
practice, but once you learn it, you'll find you can do it in any
football game you play)

5. Snap the ball.

6. Now you have one, or maybe two, seconds to "check" your
   read. Remember the player that was rushing the line before the
   snap? Look at him very quickly. Is he running at you or dropping
   into coverage? If he's dropping into coverage, and one of those
   "reads" that you thought was open now isn't, you'll need to delete
   that receiver from your options. Look at the linebackers and
   corners. Are they playing man coverage or zone? You have to learn
   to recognize this. If they're chasing each receiver closely, it's
   man. If they're dropping into zones, and sticking to the receivers
   in their zones, it's zone. They can look similar within the span of
   half a second if you haven't learned to recognize the difference.

7. Now that things are unfolding like you planned (or they aren't and
   you've changed your reads), look at your "first read" receiver. Is
   the throw there? If so, make it. If it isn't, check your "second
   read". Can you make that throw? If not, you're either looking for a
   different receiver downfield (does anyone jump out at you as being
   open?), or you're looking to that safety valve (who might be
   covered too, so you have to check him - but sometimes you throw to
   him anyway just to either get an incomplete pass or get tackled for
   like a 1 yard gain... because that's better than a sack or an interception).

(In reality, you'll do 6 and 7 at the same time. You'll follow your
"first read" receiver, and assess the situation in his area, then
either throw or move to your next read)

It can be hard to understand what you're looking at sometimes. Zone
coverage shifts around a lot, so you can't just focus on one player
when reading a certain area of the field. If it's pretty basic, then
the MLB (for example) might be sitting down in that middle zone. But
then there are "robber" coverages where a safety drops into the short
middle. There are also plays where a defensive lineman (!!) drops into
a short zone.

So, if you know it's zone, then you're looking at whomever is lined up
in certain areas to start. Then, once you take the snap, you're
looking to see if anyone is running towards that area. Sometimes
linebackers shift their zones, and an OLB ends up coming to the
middle. Or sometimes, as mentioned above, it's a safety or defensive
lineman. Sometimes, in deep coverages, there isn't anyone in the
*short* zone. And there are always holes in the zone coverage. If the
guy in the general area is too shallow or too deep, then you might be
able to make the throw (just make sure that, in the case of "too
shallow", he isn't able to jump and make a play on the ball).

This all sounds like a ton, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. A
lot of this stuff will just be thoughts in your head that you don't
really think of in words. They're just "feelings"... "I can tell he's
going to get open". This all comes from practice.

(perhaps more to come in this section at a later time)


This section is on ways to stop cheese plays, as well as ways to shut
down other types of difficult-to-stop plays (some of which *aren't*
cheesy, but it's easier to lump them in here rather than give them
their own section).

* Play: Flea flicker (a play where the QB hands the ball off to the
  running back, who then pitches it back to the QB).

* What it does: Defenders start to come in on run defense when they
  see the handoff, and then scramble back into coverage when the QB
  gets the ball back. This can lead defenders to be out of position.

* How to stop it: This play takes a long time to develop. For plays
  like this, I often use the "Fan" defensive front to give my
  defensive ends a chance to run right around the offensive line and
  take a shot at the quarterback. You can also blitz this
  play... because it takes so long, you can often rack up an easy sack
  if you've got a good pass rush. I typically use a Cover 12 and have
  my D-line Fan. In a play like Cover 12, my defensive backs are lined
  up so deep that even after they've come up a bit to try and pursue
  the run, they're still deep enough to maintain coverage after the
  QB's gotten the ball back. Sometimes, I'll take a player that's
  supposed to cover a short zone and blitz with him too. Either way,
  the result of this play is that either my defensive line gets a
  sack, or a pass is thrown into coverage. It still gets completed
  sometimes, but the receivers are never wide open.

* Play: Halfback option (a play where the QB pitches it to the running
  back, and then the running back throws the ball downfield)

* What it does: Like the flea flicker, it gets defenders to come up to
  try and stop the run, and tries to get the defense to let receivers
  get behind them.

* How to stop it: Zone coverage and Fan. Again. This time, the Fan
  makes it so that the defensive linemen have a straight shot on the
  running back. If you know for sure which direction the running back
  will be going, you can use Gap Right or Gap Left instead (as
  appropriate). Also, remember that running backs have pretty limp
  passing arms, for the most part. A lot of halfback option throws
  will be floaters. If your defense is in zone coverage, then 2 or 3
  guys will be able to chase the ball down before it comes back down
  to earth.

* Play: Quarterbacks drop back a mile.

* What it does: The idea behind this is to try and get coverage to
  break down. 

* How to stop it: Man coverage isn't a good idea, because what these
  guys are looking for is a receiver running across the field. Once
  again, this takes a long time to develop, and once again, a Fan
  defensive line will serve you well. Also, the deeper the dropback,
  the longer time it takes for the ball to get to the receiver. The
  longer the ball is in the air, the more time defenders have to go
  after it. So what defense are we thinking here? Z-o-n-e zone zone zone!

  If you have a good blitz and good cornerbacks, however, you can
  blitz the crap out of this gameplay style, too.

* Play: Fake punt

* What it does: The punter throws the ball to a receiver instead of
  kicking it

* How to stop it: Use Punt Return Defend. You can also take a
  defensive tackle and drop back for some extra coverage. In all
  honesty, this play ain't real effective.

* Play: On a 4th down, you pick a punt return formation, but your
  opponent ends up going for it!

* What it does: You're not in position to defend against the 4th down

* How to stop it: Now what did I tell you before?? WAIT UNTIL YOUR
  OPPONENT CALLS HIS PLAY. Not just on 4th down, but EVERY DOWN. It's
  not "cheating" - it exists for a reason. I explained it above, so
  scroll up and read if you don't get it.

Version history:
0.1 - Initial release