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The best part about the running game in Madden this season is that it’s totally legitimate. Unlike last season where interior running – i.e. running in between holes in the offensive line versus running outside to the left or right of the tackles – was a frustrating series of entanglements between you and your linemen, this season one of the big strengths of Madden is taking the ball up the middle. Some of the most powerful, consistent plays you can run are variations of Off Tackle and Dive; generally speaking, with a left trigger-powered Precision Truck move mixed in you’re going to get 4-5 yards or more on average. This isn’t necessarily as sexy as throwing bombs all over the field, but that’s not what we’re going for. Generating positive yardage regularly on the ground on first and second downs will win you the battle of time of possession and wear down your opponent’s defense – which sets you up for even bigger gains up the middle.
Read Option/Triple Option - While Read and Triple Option are not new this season, they’ve both been highlighted with indicators that make them easier to execute. The biggest challenge to a defense that is facing these options is knowing what’s coming – just like the real NFL. The most effective use of these options is mixing up the plays with the formation. For example, Shotgun-Normal is a formation that the option can come out of, and calling a play-action out of that after running a few regular options can be devastatingly effective. You can’t rely on nothing but options when playing the CPU or a real person – no matter what, they’ll get picked up on after a bit – but in key spots, using play-action or straight-up options will have defenders on their heels and put you in a winning position.
Passing remains much the same from last year, which is both a blessing and a curse. One thing is for sure – you will throw interceptions. Madden punishes poor decision making and if you heave the ball into double-coverage or to a well-covered receiver, only bad things will happen. It’s OK to throw the ball away (click on the right stick) if you don’t spot an open receiver! Nothing changes the momentum of a game faster than a pick-six.
Backed off DBs: If the defensive backs are not playing tight on your receiver (i.e. they’re lined up 8-10 yards off) then chances are that you can hit your WR on a curl. What if you didn’t call a curl? No problem! Call a hot route for your receiver to a curl, then throw the ball to him the moment that he starts to turn around. Unless the safety is coming over to help – which does happen, so watch out! – chances are that you’ll connect for a nice gain. This doesn’t work 100% of the time – and Madden vets will pick up on it quickly – but is one thing to look for on a regular basis. If you don’t abuse it, you’ll find it especially helpful in tight spots.
Close up DBs - Conversely, if you see a DB lined up very closely to your receiver, this is an opportunity to go big. If you didn’t call a streak, hot route to it. You’ll need to carefully watch the interaction between CB and WR at the snap. If your receiver is able to quickly break past his defender, you’ll have a second or two where he’s both wide open and moving fast – a recipe for big yards! Throw the ball to him in that window, and try to lead the receiver a little bit to the sidelines if you can to avoid the safety that’s probably trying to make his way over to cover him. Just like everything in Madden, this doesn’t always work – but if you mix your plays up nicely, you give yourself a better chance.
You don’t need to be the equivalent of an NFL coach to examine what’s happening. When you move to the line of scrimmage pre-snap, take a minute and look at what you’re facing. Even if you don’t know the real difference between a 4-3, Nickel, or Quarter, you can quickly get a feel for what your opponent is doing. Are there a lot of guys bunched together near the line of scrimmage? Chances are that’s a defense that’ll be loaded against the run. Are there 5 defensive backs stretched out from sideline to sideline? That’s probably a defense primed to defend a pass. Often it’s not super-easy to figure out what the defense is doing, but you will start to get a feel for what your best opportunity for success is if you pay attention to past results.
One thing you’ll want to master is Ball Hawk. Cornerbacks are very effective in Madden 25, and even if they’re in single coverage they often have an advantage over the receiver. Start off most plays as a defensive tackle – allowing your defensive backs and linebackers to read the play – then switch to the cornerback covering the receiver if the ball is thrown in that direction. You can ruin your opponent’s day by simply letting the corner maintain his coverage then hitting ‘Y’ or ‘Triangle’ when the ball gets near him. Chances are you’ll make the pick and change the dynamics of the game.
Man vs. Zone – Getting pressure is extremely difficult in Madden unless you blitz, but blitzing is risky because you’ll leave receivers open. The best defense in Madden is still Man coverage, and if you match up your formation with the offense, that’s your best chance for success. For example, if the offense comes out in a 3-wide set, make sure you choose a Nickel or Dime in order to get a competent defender on the extra receiver. Madden 25 does a nice job letting you know if a play is Man or Zone once you choose the formation – so make use of it. Zones can be effective on occasion in order to mix things up, but when push comes to shove, Man coverage wins in Madden.
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