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WHAT IS... The Prevent Defense?


Lornoth
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So, since there seems to be some conflict about prevent defenses, I decided to kidnap PMF and force him to write this out for m-

I mean... I decided to write a little something about the great and mysterious PREVENT. The prevent defense isn't really a formation per-say, because there are a lot of different ways teams run prevent. It's more of a philosophy. The idea is to keep everything in-bounds and in front of the defense. You give up the easy underneath throws in order to keep the clock moving when you have a big lead. In other words, you're giving up yards and points in exchange for less time on the clock. I know that, generally, people understand this concept, but I wanted to put together a comprehensive guide to the prevent, and show why it's not a bad thing when run properly. 

The Looks

There are a lot of different looks to prevent defenses, as I said, but as far as I can tell, we chiefly run only two, so that's what I'll focus on. First though, the general concept of the prevent.

79b21813bd3316ac2d4830f2b1c7ead4_origina

This is a very basic prevent concept. This particular one is entitled the "Green cover 2", but as I said there are countless variations. Many are similar, though. The idea is this; Two defenders (Usually the safeties, as in this picture, but not always) both play deep, like a normal cover 2, where they each have roughly a third of the field to cover in case the other team tries to go deep down either sideline. 

Two other defenders (Labeled Seam-Hook here, they can be DB's or LBe'rs) cover the Seam, that space between the middle of the field and the sidelines. If the enemy team tries to fit a deep pass between the outside CB's and the deep-dropping defenders, it's these guys' job to stop it. For instance;

 

Seam pressure.jpg

If the receiver (Very poorly) highlighted in red keeps on his trajectory here, then our "Seam-Hook" goes with him, all the way until he can pass him off to a deep defender. However, that's not their only job. 

Prevent downfield.jpg

If the ball goes underneath, in this example to one of these guys (Which is the goal in any prevent, to get underneath throws), it's these same defender's jobs to crack down and limit the yardage of the gain, while keeping the ball in-bounds.
The 'Middle' defender's job is similar (in this example it's the MLB, but it could be a DB or OLB too). They cover the other deep third of the field, stopping the offense from splitting the two deep safeties. When the check-down occurs, it's the MLB that swoops in with his Seam friends and makes the tackle. 

The outside CB's are the only other job here, and theirs is simple but important. They can't let anybody get out of bounds. It's tempting for them to follow their men deep, if that ends up happening, but they have to trust the safeties to handle that, because if they get cleared out, there's nobody left to stop an outside throw from gaining ten-fifteen yards and getting out of bounds. The only exception is when the Seam-Hook defenders are rotated outside and take that responsibility, which happens sometimes. 

As the opposing offense goes further down the field, these zones tighten up considerably, to the point where (hopefully) you're running a very tight scheme in the redzone and can "bend but not break" as they like to say. OR at least make them earn it with even more time off the clock. Like I said, there's a lot of variation, but that's a general concept about the prevent, and we run a lot of that when we actually do go prevent. Our most common variation of this is dropping an extra line-man. Take a look.

Prevent dropper.jpg

This guy could easily drop back and become a spy. That means he's there if the QB scrambles, and he's there to limit yardage over the middle. This makes the three defenders behind him in the middle of the field have an easier time. Take another look.

Prevent_falcons.jpg

I've kept the colours the same (I'm not an artist, in case you can't tell). Tru and Alf are manning the outsides. Ish and Poole are the Seam guys. Jones is the dropping Middle defender. Neal is in yellow and will be dropping deep, and Allen is already back there out of screen. Grady, in red, is our spy this play. He's going to be dropping back to help out. 

35m1po9.jpg

Make sense? In this particular play the checkdown goes to the bottom, and Ish is there to make the tackle. Perfect form. 

 

The Math
Scenario: There's 15:00 on the clock, start of the 4'th quarter. Ideally, your offense has the ball, but let's assume a worse scenario... You're up 21, and you just kicked off to the other team, who has it on their own 25 yard line. Now, I've already detailed how things tighten up the closer you get to the endzone, but for the sake of easy math, I'm going to give the opposing team a cool 10 yards per play, all the way down for the score. Offenses take between 20 and 40 seconds between plays, so let's say the average is 30. From the 25, at 10/play, that's 8 plays for a TD. At 30 seconds per play, that's 4 minutes off the clock for the drive. 
Clock: 11:00.
You get the ball back and, worst case scenario, you go three and out (All clock-running plays, though). You have to punt the ball away, but you took the full 40 seconds between plays to run 2 minutes off the clock.
Clock: 9:00.
Using our averages, they go down for another TD. 
Clock: 5:00. Our lead's down to 7.
We go three and out again... getting nervous yet?
Clock: 3:00.
Even in our worst case scenario, they don't have enough time left for another of their 4 minute drives. You can say 'oh, well they'll just speed up', or 'oh, they have timeouts...'. I say "Well, I'm giving them an easier time down the field on every drive than I should, and I'm letting them stop our offense perfectly." This is what they call a Perfect Storm. Something that will only happen once in a thousand games, and even in this scenario, they only have a chance to tie, not win. The simple fact is if you choose when to go into prevent at the right time, and your team plays everything right, then there's really no way, mathematically, to lose. 
Also remember, you can always go OUT of prevent defense, if things get really hairy. Still think we've blown it going prevent too early? Let's go to the Tale of the Tape. 

Tale of the Tape
We've gone into prevent 5 times this season. The Panthers (Week 3), the Broncos, the Rams, the 9'ers, and the Aints (Week 17). We never went into prevent against the Chargers, or the Ain'ts the first time, or the Panthers the second time. So what happened in those five games we did?


With 13:12 left in the 4'th against the Panthers, we went into prevent. Their first drive was the worst drive we could have had in prevent.
We let them get outside.

2gsevyx.jpg

Tru and Wheeler both clear out way too far, trailing their men, leaving nothing on the outside sideline when the Panthers WR drags underneath. 

pojh4.jpg

Jones is the only guy close by the time the crossing route develops, and it's a big gain down the sideline because of it. 
We also committed penalties, and weren't lined up on time on other plays. Keep in mind this was the third game of the season, and our defense was very young at that point. Thanks to OUR mistakes, they got a TD with 11:42 on the clock. Penalties and lack of discipline will kill a prevent defense every single time. 
They got the ball back with 9:22 on the clock (Close to our worst-case). They get a TD with 3:58 left on the clock, over a minute better (For us) than our worst-case scenario numbers. 
But then a CHANGE. We score quickly on offense, and on defense the next drive we're no longer in prevent. We're running Man and tight coverages. It takes them all the way down to 1:52 on the clock before they get their next TD. We're still up by 9. There's no way we're losing that game.

With 15:00 on the clock against Denver, we go prevent. The Broncos are not a "Perfect Storm" offense. They take their average of 4 minutes down the field (11:00 on the clock), but they only get a FG. Our offense isn't a worst case offense either. with 8:20 left on the clock, we get a FG to re extend our lead. The broncos don't score their next TD until there's only 2:38 left on the clock. They're still down by 10. No worries. 


I won't even go into the Rams or 9'ers games because nobody is complaining about them. And the Ain'ts? It took them an onside kick and our offense given out a worst-case scenario performance to even get close to us. And they never had the chance to take the lead. The fact is we haven't lost a game yet going into prevent, and we won't. We were never in danger of losing any of those games, because Quinn is good about when to go into and out of prevent. 


In short, if we lose in the playoffs, it won't be because we went into any kind of prevent defense. Prevent hurts the statistics, but not the outcome (Sorry Madden!). 

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11 minutes ago, Realsurfin said:

yes but what players are pulled and did it have an effect on their stats.. like in Mattys case.  It seems he is getting short changed with MVP and the 5K...

But hey we do need to win at one Superbowl in a lifetime.

He was also short changed every time Schaub came in and handed the ball to Terron Ward to pass the time without stopping the clock in the fourth quarter of games. The disadvantage of playing well.

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13 minutes ago, Sir Joe™ said:

Prevent to me mean just that, prevent the other team scoring. We don't that, we just play a little softer and invite the other team on.

Would like to think come the playoffs this team will play every quarter as if it's the first, regardless of score.

You can believe that if you'd like, but the reality is it doesn't mean that. I understand preferring a different approach, but we've proven the prevent is a very effective scheme when applied at the correct time, this season.

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1 minute ago, Lornoth said:

You can believe that if you'd like, but the reality is it doesn't mean that. I understand preferring a different approach, but we've proven the prevent is a very effective scheme when applied at the correct time, this season.

By definition alone I'd say whatever it is, it needs a new name then.

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Giving up 3 TDs, almost 4, in 1 quarter is not how prevent defense is supposed to work. The team just got complacent in the 4th quarter, period. A lot of people are rightfully worried because this is the Falcons we're talking about. 2012 gave a lot of fans PTSD. No lead is safe with this franchise. And no letdown is improbable with any Atlanta team. 

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3 minutes ago, QuinnTorris said:

Giving up 3 TDs, almost 4, in 1 quarter is not how prevent defense is supposed to work. The team just got complacent in the 4th quarter, period. A lot of people are rightfully worried because this is the Falcons we're talking about. 2012 gave a lot of fans PTSD. No lead is safe with this franchise. And no letdown is improbable with any Atlanta team. 

As I said, it was a highly improbable and worst case scenario because of the onside kick. They still never had a chance to take the lead from us. We ran prevent and we won: that by definition IS how the prevent is supposed to work.

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Just now, Lornoth said:

As I said, it was a highly improbable and worst case scenario because of the onside kick. They still never had a chance to take the lead from us. We ran prevent and we run, that by definition IS how the prevent is supposed to work.

By definition prevent is supposed to be extremely simple. Play conservative to keep big plays from happening downfield, come up and tackle when the QB completes a pass. The Falcons didn't do either of those things well yesterday. The Saints were getting chunk play after chunk play, and there was missed tackles in the secondary as well. They even scored quickly while trying to get Mark Ingram a 1000 yard season and kept running the ball. Whatever the plan was in the 4th...it failed miserably. I'm sure there was no expectations that we would allow that many points in 1 quarter. No kind of "prevent" should give up that many scores in 15 minutes. 

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1 minute ago, QuinnTorris said:

By definition prevent is supposed to be extremely simple. Play conservative to keep big plays from happening downfield, come up and tackle when the QB completes a pass. The Falcons didn't do either of those things well yesterday. The Saints were getting chunk play after chunk play, and there was missed tackles in the secondary as well. They even scored quickly while trying to get Mark Ingram a 1000 yard season and kept running the ball. Whatever the plan was in the 4th...it failed miserably. I'm sure there was no expectations that we would allow that many points in 1 quarter. No kind of "prevent" should give up that many scores in 15 minutes. 

Well of course missed tackles and the like aren't part of the plan. The Ain'ts have a good offense and of course knew what we were running. We still have a young defense, and we need more practice in prevent. That's a learning experience for young players, not a problem with the coaches or the scheme.

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6 minutes ago, QuinnTorris said:

Giving up 3 TDs, almost 4, in 1 quarter is not how prevent defense is supposed to work. The team just got complacent in the 4th quarter, period. A lot of people are rightfully worried because this is the Falcons we're talking about. 2012 gave a lot of fans PTSD. No lead is safe with this franchise. And no letdown is improbable with any Atlanta team. 

so you weren't around in 1980 then? or the mid to late 60's or 70's?  LOL some of us have had PTSD a lot longer than just the last 4 years ;)

 

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7 minutes ago, Lornoth said:

Well of course missed tackles and the like aren't part of the plan. The Ain'ts have a good offense and of course knew what we were running. We still have a young defense, and we need more practice in prevent. That's a learning experience for young players, not a problem with the coaches or the scheme.

The coaches deserve plenty of blame. The guys clearly weren't ready for anything NO threw out. That onside kick was a perfect example. I don't know why but teams seem to have really good chances at recovering onside kicks against us. 

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21 minutes ago, papachaz said:

oh goodness, you must still be wet behind the ears....

 

:ninja:

 

wait, I'm wet behind the ears, I've just come in and it's raining outside

 

:lol::lol:

I was only 3 years old when the Falcons made their first Super Bowl. I started following them during the Vick era. I've experienced some terrible Falcons moments but not as nearly as much as you guys from the earlier times. 

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If we fancy ourselves a Super Bowl contender we went into prevent way too early, particularly with the #1 offense in the league. One stupid penalty, one stupid turnover or muffed kickoff, and that could have cost us the game, home field, and a bye. This wasn't a 'throw away game' you play balls out until the 4th Quarter. Prevent, means just that PREVENT them from scoring, it doesn't mean allowing them to score 3 TD's and almost a fourth.  The goal of this strategy is to "prevent" the offense from gaining any significant yardage or scoring a touchdown in a single play, hence the name of the strategy. This defense will allow the offense to gain yardage within a limit that still prevents it from gaining the yards it needs to  >>>score<<<<.  The advantage of using the prevent defense is it enables the defense to manage the gains the offense makes without giving up any big plays. The disadvantage is that if enough insignificant gains are made, the offense may actually reach the ability to score with a single play.
But we won nonetheless.

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1 hour ago, Realsurfin said:

yes but what players are pulled and did it have an effect on their stats.. like in Mattys case.  It seems he is getting short changed with MVP and the 5K...

But hey we do need to win at one Superbowl in a lifetime.

Efficiency, not bulk numbers. Drew Brees gets over 5000 yards every year while his team goes under .500. Woohoo! Go stats!

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I think something is awry when a scheme is deemed to "work" because it didn't cost us a game in which we had a 25 point lead. It would have "worked" for us to just continue playing normally. Good teams score easily on prevent defense. Why let a blowout become a close game instead of playing the way that got you the lead in the first place?

Not saying there aren't times when prevent defense is practical, because of course there are. 

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53 minutes ago, Expert Poster said:

I think something is awry when a scheme is deemed to "work" because it didn't cost us a game in which we had a 25 point lead. It would have "worked" for us to just continue playing normally. Good teams score easily on prevent defense. Why let a blowout become a close game instead of playing the way that got you the lead in the first place?

Not saying there aren't times when prevent defense is practical, because of course there are. 

It's just a different way to get there. If a game lasts a shorter amount of time, then there's less chance of injury. It's a way to get the W and get out as fast as possible, so you can get ready for next week. Kind of like an extended kneel down, conceptually speaking. 

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The only problem that I have with a "prevent" defense is that our offense typically also goes into "burn the clock" mode and we don't attack the sticks as hard.  I know we'd typically like to run the ball more and run out the clock but it doesn't help out the D if our O goes 3 and out while they're playing "prevent".

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1 hour ago, falconfansince66 said:

What we should've been doing is playing PREVENT OFFENSE!  Yesterday, we scored a TD on every possession just to see us take the foot off the throttle in the second half.  We absolutely cannot do that in any of the next remaining games. 

We won't. You save yourself for the playoffs by resting players and the like. Once you're in the playoffs, you don't have anything to save yourself for.

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