Strategy of American football
American football is heavily reliant on strategy. Both sides prepare numerous parts of their offensive and defensive plays, such as formations, who they place on the field, and the duties and instructions provided to each player. Throughout a game, each side adjusts to the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team, using various strategies to outmanoeuvre or out power their opponent in order to win the game.
The offense’s primary purpose is to score points. Coaches and players develop and execute plays depending on a variety of criteria, including the players involved, the opponent’s defensive strategy, the amount of time remaining until halftime or the conclusion of the game, and the number of points required to win the game. Strategically, the offensive can keep the ball longer to prevent the opponent from scoring. Offensive scoring chances, or drives, terminate when the ball cannot be moved 10 yards or is turned over through fumble or interception.
The offensive team forms a formation before the ball is snapped. The configuration employed is dictated by the game circumstances. Teams frequently utilise “special formations” in obvious passing situations, short yardage, goal line scenarios, or formations devised specifically for that game to confound the opposition. There are virtually an infinite number of conceivable forms; here are a few of the more prevalent ones:
- Option offense
- T formation
- Single set back
- Goal line formation
- Wishbone formation
- I formation
- Pistol formation
- Shotgun formation
- Single-wing formation
- Pro set
- Victory formation, etc.
When the team is in position and the quarterback makes a signal, either by speaking out instructions or by offering a nonverbal cue (a so-called “silent count”), the centre snaps the ball to the quarterback and the play starts.
A running play happens when the quarterback delivers the ball to another player who attempts to carry the ball past the line of scrimmage and gain yards, or when the quarterback maintains the ball and runs beyond the line of scrimmage themselves. The primary function of the offensive line in both circumstances is to run block, preventing defensive players from tackling the ball carrier.
The choice of running play is determined by the offensive team’s strengths, the deficiencies of the opposing defence, and the distance required to score a touchdown or get a first down. There are several types of running plays, including:
- Student Body Right
- Counter Trey
- QB sweep
- Off Tackle
- Quarterback sneak
- Counter, etc.
When there is a passing play, the backs and receivers follow specified patterns, or routes, and the quarterback passes the ball to one of the players. The offensive line’s primary responsibility on these plays is to prevent defensive players from tackling the quarterback before he passes the ball (a “sack”) or interrupting the quarterback in any other manner throughout the play. Passing plays cover more ground than running plays when successful, hence they are frequently utilised when the offensive team has to gain a high number of yards. Even if they don’t need to gain many yards, it would be unwise to continue running because the defence may foresee it. However, run plays are designed to tyre out the defensive lineman in between passing plays, protecting the quarterback from sacks.
Run plays may also be utilised to set up pass plays, which is known as play action. The quarterback and running back will fake a run as the receivers run a route. The idea is for the defenders to believe it is a run play, allowing the receivers to be open and making the quarterback’s job simpler. This will also throw the defenders off guard. If a team is effective at running the ball, the defence will prepare for the run, but if the offence runs a play action, the pass will be a major play if completed.
The following are examples of pass plays:
- Slant route
- Fly route
- Button hook
- Corner Route
- Out route
- Screen pass
- Hail Mary, etc.
One common guideline that teams must consider while developing their passing strategy is that only specific players are permitted to catch forward passes. If a non-eligible receiver gets a thrown pass, the team may be punished. However, if the team notifies the referee ahead to a play that a typically ineligible receiver would function as an eligible receiver for one play, that player is permitted to catch passes. Teams will employ this technique on occasion to confuse the opposition or compel them to pay extra attention to potential pass receivers.
Specific offensive strategies
The offence attempts to generate yards for a first down, touchdown, or field goal by combining passing and rushing plays. Several football coaches and offensive coordinators have developed several well-known and extensively used offensive concepts over the years:
- Spread offense
- Option offense
- West Coast offense
- Air Coryell
- Run and shoot offense
- Smashmouth offense
- Pistol offense, etc.
Play calling systems
The methods in which plays are usually called are distinct from the offensive plans or philosophies that dictate how a team carries the ball down the field, whether it depends on downfield passes, short passes inside runs, etc. These play-calling systems are frequently designed alongside specific offensive methods, while the systems themselves can function with any scheme. The distinctions between the systems are centered on the language used to transmit plays to players. In the NFL, three fundamental systems predominate:
- The West Coast system, which evolved with the West Coast offense, has specialized terminology to define formations, blocking methods, and running or passing routes
- The Coryell system, which was created in tandem with the Air Coryell offensive, is based on a numerical code known as a “route tree.” Play calling is done using a three-digit number, such as 896, where each digit indicates a specific receiver which route to take: the leftmost receiver takes a “8” or post route, the center receiver takes a “9” or go route, and the rightmost receiver takes a “6” or in route
- The Erhardt-Perkins method, established in the 1970s by two New England Patriots assistant coaches, is focused on single-word ideas rather than assigning each player a job in the play. One word, say “ghost,” instructs each receiver what to do; the idea is separate from the formation, thus regardless of the formation, each player follows the right pattern indicated by the “ghost” concept based on where he is lined up.
Linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs are the three sorts of players on defense (also called secondary players). The particular places and tasks of these individuals on the field vary based on the style of defense deployed as well as the sort of offensive the defense is facing.
The number of linemen engaged, followed by the number of linebackers, is the most frequent method to characterize a basic defensive configuration. The number of defensive backs is rarely indicated, but when it is (as in the “3-3-5”), it is normally listed after the number of linebackers, thus the formula would be (# of linemen)-(# of linebackers)-(# of defensive backs [if given]) in these cases. This naming criterion does not always apply when the individuals for a certain formation are set up in a way that alters the function of the defensive players.
The number of linemen engaged, followed by the number of linebackers, is the most frequent method to characterise a basic defensive configuration. The number of defensive backs is rarely indicated, but when it is (as in the “3-3-5”), it is normally listed after the number of linebackers, thus the formula would be (# of linemen)-(# of linebackers)-(# of defensive backs [if given]) in these cases. This naming criterion does not always apply when the individuals for a certain formation are set up in a way that alters the function of the defensive players.
This naming rule does not always apply when the individuals for a certain formation are set up in a way that alters the function of the defensive players. A good example would be the “3-5-3,” which employs the 3-3-5 personnel but arranges the five defensive backs with “3 deep,” thereby grouping the other two defensive backs with the linebacker group.
The most frequent alignments are four down linemen and three linebackers (a “4-3” defence), or three down linemen and four linebackers (“3-4”), although teams often utilise five linemen and two linebackers (“5-2”), or three linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs (“3-3-5”).
Some of the more well-known defensive formations are as follows:
- 46 defense
- Nickel, etc.
The defense must wait until the ball is snapped by the opposing center before moving over the line of scrimmage or engaging any of the offensive players. Once an opposing offense has broken their huddle and set up in their formation, defensive players frequently scream out instructions to one another to make last-second modifications to the defence.
Specific defensive strategies
Defensive strategies differ from offensive strategies in that, unlike offences, which have very specific, detailed plans and assignments for each player, defences are more reactive, with each player’s general goal being to “stop the offence” by tackling the ball carrier, breaking up passing plays, taking the ball away from the offence, or sacking the quarterback. While accuracy and timing are crucial components of offensive strategy, defensive methods frequently stress aggression and the ability to respond to plays as they develop.
Some of the most commonly known and used defensive strategies include:
- 46 defense
- Coverage shells (cover 2, cover 3, etc.)
- Zone blitz
- Tampa 2
- 5–5–1 Two-level defense, etc.
Special teams strategy
A special team is a group of players who onto the field to participate in kickoffs, free kicks, punts, and field goal attempts. Most football teams have one or more kickers, a long snapper (who specialises in precise long-distance snaps), kick returners who collect and carry the ball after the other team kicks it, and blocks who defend during kicks and returns.
Most special teams are comprised of players who serve as backups or substitutes on the offensive and defensive units of the squad. It is unusual for a starting offensive or defensive player to simultaneously play on a special teams unit due to the danger of injury.
A kickoff happens at the start of each half, throughout overtime (unless in college), and after each touchdown, successful field goal, or safety. The coach of the opposing side may opt to have his players kick the ball in one of several ways: Squib kick, Kickoff out of bounds, Standard kickoff, and Onside kick
Downing the ball
If the receiving team fails to receive the ball, the kicking team may get into position and attempt to down it as close to the other team’s end zone as possible. This is accomplished by either grabbing the ball (usually near to the end zone to prevent a touchback) or encircling the ball and allowing it to roll or bounce as close to the end zone as possible without touching it. If the ball looks to be rolling or bouncing into the end zone, a player may attempt to bat it down or catch it in advance of the goal line.
If a member of the kicking team catches the ball before a member of the receiving team, the official blows the play dead, and the receiving team obtains control at the point where the ball was sighted by the official.
This is all defines the strategies include in the game of football.