In Defense Of The Prevent
John Madden threw it under the bus. We defend it.
John Madden once famously quipped that "the only thing the prevent defense does is prevent you from winning." But it's high time commentators, fans and even players showed some love for this much-maligned scheme. It works—and we can prove it.
If a team is ahead by more than a field goal but fewer than seven and the clock is winding down, the only thing that can kill them is a big play for a quick score. Well, big plays are usually as much a product of a huge defensive mistake as offensive execution: a late-developing blitz that backfires and leaves a tight end wide-open, a corner stuck on an island in man coverage. A prevent scheme with, say, three down linemen and eight defensive backs eliminates nearly all of those risk factors. "Everyone wants to romanticize the gunslinging coach who blitzes no matter what—until that guy gives up an 80-yard bomb with a minute to play and loses the game," says Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. (Now the Lions head coach.) "Sometimes it pays to be boring."
Especially when you have time on your side. Let's say an offense is down five with two minutes to go, and has to drive 80 yards for the winning score. Facing a prevent defense, only short, quick tosses between the numbers are surefire completions. But even those take 20 seconds off the clock. If that offense doesn't have a timeout, they can afford to throw six of those passes in 120 seconds. That means they need to average around 12 yards per attempt to hit pay dirt in time. That's nearly impossible to do by dinking and dunking. In fact, during the playoffs from 2005 to 2007, teams facing the prevent averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt. "An offense is fighting yardage," says Browns coach Eric Mangini. "And they're fighting time. You want to make sure you take away both."
Easily said—and easily done.
- NFL - Biggest remaining issue for the Seahawks, Rams, 49ers and Cardinals
- NFL - Biggest remaining issue for the Falcons, Panthers, Bucs and Saints
- Recruiting Pitches: Pac-12
- Oregon Ducks top projected Pac-12 standings for 2013 - College Football
- 2014 NFL draft - Mel Kiper looks at prospects ranked 26-50 beyond the Big Board
- NCB: Teams, systems and players to watch
- Derrick Rose on what it means to rep Chicago
- The Mag: Fashion Forward
- Harvick embraces role as Earnhardt's heir
- The unlikely backstory of NASCAR's most promising new drivers
- The Mag: How to crash
- The Mag: Athletes' kids finding prep success
- Mag: Inside the NCAA's Eligibility Center
- The Mag: The top 20 recruiters
- The Mag: The stories behind Georgia State football
- The Mag: The journey of Alexi Ogando
- Roenigk: Mark Ingram is tough to bring down
- Mag: Singletary's reshaping of Niners
- Mag: The rise of the Blackhawks
- Olney: October baseball is amazing
- The Mag: Ron Artest on himself
- The Mag: Pros share the best advice they got
- Bergeron: A look at the side careers of eight athletes
- Player X: In praise of quiet, rich owners
- Mag: Packers are best franchise in sports
- Reilly: Rocco didn't beat Tiger, but you'd think he did
- Simmons: It's hard to say goodbye to David Ortiz
- Blowing $66,000 on a College World Series game ... yeah, that qualifies as a meltdown.
- Racing needs to find a way to let drivers attempt to win both Indy and in Charlotte on the same day.
- The Gamer: Mike Swick and Rampage Jackson are avid gamers
- Bill Curry brings Georgia State football to life.
- VIDEO: Kobe Bryant's two loves
- VIDEO: Superman Dwight -- stylin' and profilin'
- VIDEO: Ricky Rubio, on the verge of superstardom