Whatever game mode you play on, having a strong defense is the most reliable and fulfilling way to win.
Defense is a viable way to score if you play it right, and turnovers can put your offense in the best place to pickup points.
Strength on defense can frustrate your opponent into silly mistakes on Ultimate Team and help keep your franchise mode team alive while you develop a new quarterback. It's also one of the most tried and tested ways to win in any sport, after all the saying "defense wins championships" wouldn't exist if there wasn't some truth to it, right?
So what are the defensive foundations you should learn on Madden 20 now that it's out?
Our defense-based tips will help you navigate the game and hopefully lead to turnover and big plays.
This is the single biggest tip I would give to any player, and it's usually the first question you ask when you meet a Madden player to gauge their level. It's not hard to learn, but it takes time and a lot of mistakes to master.
Most casual players start on the defensive line and rush the QB. This brings quick results and will get some sacks. But a good player will shift their protection and choose formations to nullify that threat. Casual players also usually select the best player to on the defensive line to control. This negates their CPU ability, missing the chance to improve a worse player with your human intervention.
Practice using your MLB to patrol the middle of the field, you can cover up to 3 routes when you do this. Use strafe (Hold LT/L2 when moving) to move sideways whilst facing the QB and learn the timing of the interception button. This also makes you a better run defender when you get to the edge.
This has a hidden benefit that you can look for an MLB in your roster who is tall (aim for 6'1" or taller) with speed, acceleration and agility (over 90 is the dream) and they will be unstoppable with you in control. Awareness drives a lot of the overall rating, and this is virtually redundant when controlled by the user.
Study Your Opponent
There are 2 things to assess when playing a game of Madden; your opponent, and their weapons.
First, read up on your opponents team before the game if possible - know their X-factor players. In Franchise, you will have all the stats you need to see which receivers they lean on the most, or whether they run or pass more often. In any game mode, take a quick pause early and try to read their depth chart. This will give you an idea of the talent they have at what positions and whether they have a weakness to exploit or a strength for you to mitigate. If they have a star WR, don't leave him single covered. If they pass 50% of times to the same TE, then you know where to focus your user.
Second, reading your opponent in the game is huge. At the end of each play it tells you what they selected. Take your time to read this and piece together what they are doing. If they run the same play repeatedly, you can select the plays you need to reduce their impact. Most players over time become more predictable, but you have to be looking for it.
Knowing when to Swat vs when to Pick
This is a tricky balance. There is nothing more satisfying than the interception animation before the camera swings around and you have the ball. However, if you go for it and miss - you can end up with smashed pads and losing the game.
This is all about situational awareness. Using the steps earlier, know who the receivers are and whether they have the good jump and catching stats. If it's Julio Jones you are fighting with, then it can be safer to go with a swat ball approach. It's less satisfying, but less risky.
Another time you might opt to swat the ball is 3rd or 4th down. If a swat means a punt or a change of possession anyway, then why take the risk? Situational awareness is key to making the right decisions.
Another risk vs reward option, but one that plays a bigger role than ever in Madden 20. There are new mechanics on the QB meaning that there are penalties for being pressurized and/or off balance. This has made blitzing not just about getting sacks. If you can get the right pressure on the QB, you will see wildly inaccurate throws that have more chance of finding their way into a defender hands.
If you read our guide on some early money plays, these are great ways to get pressure without being overly risky and giving up big plays.
Switch on Pass Rusher but NOT on Coverage
Many big plays are given up by incorrect switching on defense. There is nothing worse than seeing a play covered, only for you to switch to them and the change in control meaning the play is busted and goes for a touchdown.
Switching is not all bad. When on the defensive line (although read point 1!) if you break through, we recommend switching away from that player and allow the CPU to line up the opponent perfectly. Sometimes, you can line up a little off and you end up flying past the QB and give up a big play that didn't need to happen.
But, for coverage, don't switch the control once the balls in flight. Just consider the options of what you want the defender to do (swat, tackle player, interception). This again minimizes the losses to big plays if you don't line up correctly or miss.
Balancing Risk and Reward - Guessing the Play
In a previous guide on stopping the run, we talked about guessing the play being an option. This overrides your players' stats of play recognition and engages them in rushing the running back or dropping into coverage; based on what you have selected.
This is another element of risk and should only be used in situations you are sure about. This can be very handy in MUT where some players are very repetitive. If your opponent is running the same play repeatedly, you can use the guess play functionality to a fair accuracy.
To do this, select Pre Snap - LB/L1 + Relevant Direction on RS
Not the most well-known functionality in Madden 20, Protect Sticks (Y/Triangle Defensive Pre Snap + LB/L1) tells all defenders to protect the first down marker and put everything in front of them. This gives up the short plays without giving up the first down and is very useful on 3rd and medium/long.
By protecting the sticks, it can prevent a lot of money plays being as effective. It is particularly effective against deep passes.
So those are our tips to improving your performance on defense. There's no magic bullet on defense, even the best units in the NFL still give up touchdowns and can get repeatedly roasted by an offense that is on form. However, if you can improve the consistency of your defense by letting the AI do what it does best and then supplementing that with your user middle linebacker, your pre-snap adjustments, and the other tricks we have outlined here you can quickly improve your defense. A better defense means you have to take fewer risks on offense too.