'Madden 11' Strategy: NFC West

August, 19, 2010
08/19/10
3:57
PM ET
By Prima Games
Madden NFL 11EA SportsLearn to coach like Mike with Prima's new "Madden 11" guide.

Love "Madden 11" but frustrated that you keep losing to your friends? Prima Games is here to help, providing ESPN.com readers with a team-by-team breakdown of some plays that need to be in your gameplan.

Let's kick things off with the NFC West.

San Francisco 49ers

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

I-Form Tight, Power O: One of the staple run plays the 49ers like to run out of I-Form Tight is Power O. This play involves left guard Mike Iupati pulling with fullback Moran Norris as lead blocker. With this play, we are going to bring the flanker, Michael Crabtree, in motion to provide additional blocking.

Once the flanker is behind the line of scrimmage, snap the ball. Once the ball is snapped, quarterback Alex Smith hands the ball off to running back Frank Gore. This is when you want to follow your blockers inside, or if you see that they've sealed the edge you can bounce it outside.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

Frank Gore sees a hole and takes the run inside behind his blockers to pick up a good gain. With this play, you can keep the defense guessing about which side you're going to run the ball to by flipping the play and sending the flanker in motion. Be sure to mix this in with play action passes.

I-Form Tight, PA Boot: A good play action play that works with any of the runs from the I-Form Tight is the PA Boot. This play is a fake handoff to running back Frank Gore that allows the quarterback to roll out to the right with two options over the middle of the field.

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Alex Smith fakes the handoff to Gore and scans the field. Once you roll out to the right, you should look over the middle of the field. Tight end Delanie Walker is running a 5-yard crossing route and Vernon Davis is running a delay route to the flat. Your last read for this play is to keep an eye out for Michael Crabtree on the comeback route.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

We complete a pass to Vernon Davis in the flat, who makes a grab and has plenty of room to run for positive yards. Another thing to consider for maximum protection is to motion the flanker behind the line of scrimmage. This provides us with more pass-blocking and gives the defense the same look as if we were running the ball.

Arizona Cardinals

Madden NFL 11EA SportsCoach Whisenhunt is stunned that nobody wants to play as his team.

Gun Doubles Wk, Zona Y-Corner: The Cardinals are a passing team, and Gun Doubles Wk, Zona Y-Corner has the tight end as the primary receiver. This play also has the split end and the slot receiver running in routes while the running back is on an out route. The crossing route combination on the left side of the field provides you with quick reads.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

Once the ball is snapped, the quarterback scans the field as he sees the crossing routes developing in front of him. Depending on if the defense is playing man or zone, you should see one of the routes come open. In the screenshot, the defense is playing zone and there are two defenders sitting in the area.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

The QB finds his target, running back Tim Hightower, out of the backfield. Hightower makes the grab and has plenty of room to run before he is brought down. If you see the defense sitting on the running back, throw to the slot receiver as your next read.

Gun Spread, WR Screen: In the Cardinals offense, getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald is a must if you want to have success in the passing attack. Gun SpreadWR Screen allows you to do just that with a screen to the right side of the formation.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

With this play, wait for your blocks to set up. Just hold onto the ball for a quick second once you snap it. Our blockers are setting up, and Larry Fitzgerald is waiting for the ball. Once you see this it's time to throw the ball to your star wideout.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

We complete the pass to him with blockers out in front as we pick up a good gain. With this play, letting your blockers set up is key, as is knowing when to call it. This type of screen play is not that effective vs. man defenses but sure is a zone killer. It's all about calling the right play at the right time. Beat up your opponent with crossing routes until he starts to run zone to defend them. Then pop him with the screen.

St. Louis Rams

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Strong Twins Flex, HB Off Tackle: The Rams have one of the top running backs in the NFL with Steven Jackson. The Strong Twins FlexHB Off Tackle is the perfect run to get this power back going. This type of run was widely used in Madden NFL 10 and we expect that to be no different this year in Madden NFL 11.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

One thing we like to do with this play is motion the slot receiver to the right side of the field and snap the ball when he is behind the line of scrimmage to provide extra blocking. After we hand the ball off to Steven Jackson our blocks are set up perfectly out in front of us.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

Steven Jackson finds a hole inside behind right guard Adam Goldberg and right tackle Rodger Saffold. This type of run is very hard to stop because you have the choice to take it up inside or bounce it outside if you see the defense overpursuing the run. You will be sure to give the defense fits with this run mixed into your offensive game plan.

Gun Split Offset, FL Spot: FL Spot is a favorite play of ours from the Gun Split Offset formation. The play design has the receivers compressed, and this makes the play unique because it is hidden within this formation. Because this is a compressed set, you can easily tell if the defense is playing man or zone.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

We motion the flanker to the left side of the field. If the defense plays zone, the flanker will be open on the left sideline. Sam Bradford sees that his target, wide receiver Donnie Avery, is open so he fires the ball to him down the sideline.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

Avery makes the catch for a 10-yard gain, which keeps the chains moving. If the defense is playing man, this is when you want to look for one of the running backs out of the backfield. You have the delay route and the flat route as potential targets. After that, you can look toward the slot receiver and the split end.

Seattle Seahawks

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I-Form Slot Flex, HB Blast: The I-Form Slot Flex formation spreads the defense out a bit. The HB Blast from this formation is designed to run to the weak side behind the left tackle. This is a solid run that moves the chains and works well with the other runs from this formation.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

The QB hands the ball off to the running back, who follows his fullback. Left tackle Russell Okung and left guard Ben Hamilton are holding their blocks as well. You can choose to cut it up inside between them or, if the edge is sealed, take it outside. It's all about being patient and reading the defense.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

The edge is sealed and Leon Washington bounces it outside for a 5-yard gain before being tackled. Another suggestion with this run is to use motion and flip the play depending on which side the defense overloads. Again, this is a very good run that picks up positive yards.

I-Form Normal, Hawks HB Angle: Angle routes have been effective out of the backfield for many years in Madden NFL. You will see this play in a lot of West Coast playbooks, such as the Seahawks, 49ers, and Chiefs. You can use this play and mix it in with the run plays from this formation.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

With this play, your first two reads should be the halfback and the fullback coming out of the backfield. You should see the running back come open against just about any defense. If the defense has him covered, look for the fullback going to the left side of the field. You also have to keep an eye out for the flanker on the short curl route.

Madden NFL 11EA Sports

The QB passes the ball to the running back. He makes the catch, turns downfield, and picks up 5 yards. Once you get the defense to worry about the HB, this is when you want to get either your fullback or flanker involved into the play.

For more information on "Madden 11" as well as additional strategy per team, check out Prima's official strategy guide.

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