The 3-4 defense has regained popularity in the past decade, something evidenced by the number of teams in Madden 22 with 3-4 playbooks. This article will look at the best playbooks for you in constructing your 3-4 defense.
All teams will be listed in alphabetical order with corresponding plays showcased.
1. Arizona Cardinals (NFC West)
- Clamp Double Go (3-4, Cub)
- Cover 1 Thief Show 2 (3-4, Under)
- Cover 1 Hole (3-4, Over)
Coming off Chandler Jones’ stellar performance, the Arizona defensive playbook might be popular in-game. Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph has put together a good set of plays to help maximize the talent of his defense, including new Cardinal J.J. Watt.
Clamp Double Go is a unique zone blitz that pulls the nose tackle back into zone coverage while three linebackers blitz. Some receivers might think twice about going over the middle with a NT waiting for them. The flats, middle, and deep pass are also covered, so that should leave enough time to make the sack.
Cover 1 Thief Show sends an extra rusher with the strong safety covering the deep pass and free safety over the middle. Your remaining defenders will be in man, so have confidence that they can successfully defend any passes.
Cover 1 Hole is another Cover 1 play where a LB maintains zone coverage over the middle with the FS covering the deep zone, leaving the SS and remaining defenders in man coverage. The weakness here will be in shots to the sideline, but you should be good on passes over the middle.
2. Baltimore Ravens (AFC North)
- Pinch Dog 3 (3-4, Bear)
- Tampa 2 (3-4, Over)
- Cover 1 Robber Press (3-4, Under)
Baltimore has had a solid defensive reputation for two decades, and this year is no different. A speedy and hard-hitting squad is aided through the utilization of the 3-4.
Cover 1 Robber Press sends an added rusher with both safeties maintaining the middle and deep zones. By pressing, the receivers are given less time to build up speed and (hopefully) evasive maneuvers, making a pass more difficult.
Pinch Dog 3 is a zone blitz that gives up the short pass to the flats to ensure the medium and big gains are mitigated. The non-blitzing LBs and the SS maintain the medium zone while the two cornerbacks and FS cover the deep zone. The blitzing LBs should help prevent any quick passes to the flat as they barrel down on the QB from either side. This could be a good 3rd and long play.
Tampa 2 uses zone coverage to plug nearly any throwing hole. The sideline is open, but will be difficult for most to hit. By only sending four, you are placing more emphasis on stopping the pass, so this could be an ideal 3rd and 10+ play.
3. Denver Broncos (AFC West)
- Fire Zone Bluff (3-4, Odd)
- Cov 1 QB Contain (3-4, Over)
- Cover 3 Buzz Show 2 (3-4, Under)
Von Miller may not be at his peak anymore, but he is still a threatening LB in the 3-4. Denver has a fast defense, and their LBs are well-suited for the 3-4.
Cov 1 QB Contain keeps the FS in a deep zone while the two outside LBs blitz to contain the QB in the pocket. If you do not want to dedicate a spy to a speedy QB and/or those players who like to scramble, this play could be a good way to maximize your pass defense while applying the most pressure.
Fire Zone Bluff is another zone blitz that drops the NT back in zone coverage. Two LBs and both DEs rush the passer as the zone coverage maintains in the medium-to-deep areas. This will be a good play to prevent deep passes, so 3rd and long would be a good time to execute it.
Cover 3 Buzz Show 2 places more emphasis on covering the flat than the previous play, sending both outside backers to the flat in zone coverage. The two CBs and SS drift into the deep zone while the FS and a LB maintain the middle. The remaining four rush. This could be a good play for a medium-to-go situation in that it covers the short-to-medium pass well.
4. Los Angeles Rams (NFC West)
- Storm Brave 1 (3-4, Odd)
- Cover 2 Sink (3-4, Over)
- OLB Strike 2 (3-4, Under)
The key to any 3-4 defense is a dominant NT. There is no more dominant NT in the league than Aaron Donald, and some consider him the best player in the NFL. A NT like Donald allows a 3-4 defense to be maximized.
Cover 2 Sink sends an outside backer to rush with the three defensive lineman while the remaining defenders maintain zones in the flat, middle, and deep areas. The sideline is open, but this should be a difficult pass.
Storm Brave 1 sends two LBs in staggered blitzes with the FS maintaining a deep zone. The LAR DBs are generally quick and skilled enough to maintain man coverage for long enough to pressure the QB.
OLB Strike 2 sends both OLBs along with the three defensive linemen with the others maintaining zone coverage. The sideline is open again, but the route of the blitz will also help contain a QB in the pocket to make it more difficult to escape and make a better sideline throw. This would be another good play when playing against running or scrambling gamers.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North)
- Gap Press (3-4, Cub)
- Cover 2 Hard Flat (3-4, Even)
- Cover 3 Cloud (3-4, Odd)
A team long renowned for running a 3-4 defense, Pittsburgh should have another top-ten defense in the NFL this year.
Gap Press is a blitz with man coverage that sends three of the four LBs, with one busting through the gap between the line and LBs. The blitzing backers on either end should also help to prevent the QB from taking off, keeping them relegated to the pocket.
Cover 2 Hard Flat ensure the flat is covered with three LBs covering the middle. The deep zone is maintained by both safeties, so this coverage maximizes your pass defense in the 3-4.
Cover 3 Cloud sends the OLB from what is the blindside of most QBs while also keeping the DB on that side in a zone covering the flat. Should the QB see the blitz and try to dump it off, the DB should be there to sniff it out and make a play. The middle and deep zones are covered, but watch out for the sideline area behind the flat-covering DB.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC South)
- Pinch Buck 0 (3-4, Even)
- Will Sam 1 (3-4, Bear)
- Strike Spy 2 (3-4, Cub)
The defending Super Bowl champions rode a good offense and better defense to a title and brought all 22 starters from both sides of the ball back for round two. Todd Bowles excels as a defensive playcaller, and his defenders benefit from his expertise.
Pinch Buck 0 sends three of the four LBs on a blitz with man coverage. The two OLBs help function to not only contain the QB, but to force the QB into the other’s path. Sending a LB right behind a defensive end could also overwhelm the left side of the line, creating a seam to attack the QB.
Will Sam 1 is another blitz with the OLBs with the FS maintaining the deep zone. The most outside LB on the right side blitzes, again containing and forcing the QB to the left, towards the other blitzer. The only issue is if a defender is beaten and the FS is on the other side, so be aware.
Strike Spy 2 sends both outside backers on a wide blitz while the flat, middle, and deep zones are covered. This is another play which is susceptible to the sideline throw, but that throw has to be perfect. The wide blitz could also open a path for a running QB, so be aware. However, should they make it past the line of scrimmage, they are likely to run right into the defending LBs.
Madden 22 has many teams with the 3-4 in their playbook, but these six represent a solid combination of playbook and personnel. Which playbook will you choose for yourself?