46 defense

The 46 defense is an American football defensive formation, an eight men in the box defense, with six players along the line of scrimmage (4 playing line technique, 2 in a linebacker technique).[1] There are two players at linebacker depth playing linebacker technique, and then three defensive backs. The 46 defense was originally developed and popularized with the Chicago Bears by their defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who later became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.

Unlike most defensive formations that take their names from the number of defensive linemen and linebackers on the field (i.e. the 4–3 defense has 4 linemen and 3 linebackers), the name "46" originally came from the jersey number of Doug Plank, who was a starting strong safety for the Bears when Ryan developed the defense, a role typically played in the formation as a surrogate linebacker.[2][3]

46 green
46 Formation, original 4-3 base set


To stop a passing game, you can't stop it unless you put pressure on it. Now some people are good enough to put it on with a three-man rush; well, we're not. In fact, I don't know whether we're good enough to put it on with a four-man rush. If we have to send eight, we'll send eight, but we're not going to let you sit back there and pick us apart.

— Buddy Ryan, 1986 NFL Films interview

I had to use every bit of knowledge and experience and wisdom I had to come up with game plans to attack this defense. It's really the most singular innovation in defensive football in the last twenty years.

— Bill Walsh, ESPN interview

The 46 defense was an innovative defense with a unique defensive front, designed to confuse and put pressure on the opposing offense, especially their quarterback. Compared to a 4-3 base defense, the 46 dramatically shifts the defensive line to the weak side (the opposite end from the offense's tight end), with both guards and the center "covered" by the left defensive end and both defensive tackles. This front forced offenses to immediately account for the defenders lined up directly in front of them, making it considerably harder to execute blocking assignments such as pulling, trapping and pass protection in general. Moreover, the weak side defensive end would be aligned one to two yards outside the left offensive tackle, leaving the opposing tackle man-on-man when trying to block the pass rush.

Another key feature of the 46 is that both outside linebackers tend to play on the strong side of the formation. To avoid confusion, the strong and weak side linebackers (who are no longer lined up on opposite sides) are often renamed the 'Jack' and 'Charlie' linebackers, respectively. The linebackers line up behind the linemen somewhere between one and three yards from the line of scrimmage. The primary tactic is to rush between five and eight players on each play, either to get to the quarterback quickly or disrupt running plays, although dropping some players back into pass coverage after seemingly indicating that they will blitz (see zone blitzing) is another method of creating confusion. Ryan would use all of these rushers to out-man and overwhelm the offense. Another major key to the 46 is the ability of the cornerbacks to play man free and bump and run coverage. Bump and run can allow the defense to take away the quarterback's immediate decision-making ability, by disrupting the timing of short routes needed to make a quick throw to beat the 46 defense.[4]

The formation was very effective in the 1980s NFL because it often negated a team's running game and forced them to throw the ball. This was difficult for many teams at the time because most offensive passing games centered on the play-action pass, a situation that often favored the defense even further with the quarterback lined up to receive the snap from directly behind the center.

Currently, the 46 is rarely used in professional and college football. This is largely because of multiple receiver and spread formations.[5] The eight man line that the 46 presented was most effective against the two back, two wide receiver sets common in the 1980s.

A weakness of the 46 defense is that with eight defensive players lining up near the line of scrimmage and only three in the secondary, it leaves areas open for receivers to catch passes. Also, timed passes can be thrown before the players blitzing have a chance to reach the quarterback. When the Miami Dolphins gave the Bears their only loss of the 1985 season, Miami exploited these weaknesses with quarterback Dan Marino's quick release of the ball, and their receivers' ability to beat the one-on-one coverage of Chicago's cornerbacks.[6]

Another problem with the 46 defense is that most teams do not have enough impact players to run the 46 as effectively as the Bears and Ryan's other two major successes, the late 1980s Philadelphia Eagles for which he was head coach and the 1993 Houston Oilers for whom he was defensive coordinator, did. Those teams fielded some of the best front-seven defenses ever, and included such players as Jerome Brown, Mike Singletary, Steve McMichael, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Clyde Simmons, Reggie White, Otis Wilson, Seth Joyner and Wilber Marshall.

In today's game, the 46 defense is often simplified to its main component of walking the strong safety up to the line of scrimmage as an eighth man in the box to help contain the run. Defenses today may also run safety blitzes and corner blitzes at crucial moments without committing wholly to the "46" defense. Up front, teams still use the concept of the "T-N-T" alignment, where two defensive ends are covering (lined up directly across from) the guards, and a nose tackle is covering the center. In the case of a zone-blocking scheme, this makes it difficult for the offensive linemen to reach any of the linebackers on the second level.

Lining up

This is where defensive players would line up against a normal Pro Set offense.[7]

  • Defensive ends: The weak side defensive end lines up one to two yards outside the weak offensive tackle. The strong side defensive end lines up on the outside shoulder of the strong side guard. The object of the weak side defensive end against the run is to protect against reverses and counters. Otherwise on pass plays he goes after the quarterback. The strong side defensive end is to make sure the offensive guard in front of him does not push him inside and does not get released to block the linebacker.[8]
  • Defensive tackles: The weak side defensive tackle lines up on the outside shoulder of the guard. The other defensive tackle essentially becomes a nose guard and lines up in front of the center. The main objective for the weak side tackle is the same as the strong side defensive end - to avoid being pinched inside or let the guard release to block the linebacker.
  • Linebackers: The jack linebacker lines up on the outside shoulder of the strong tight end and, like a defensive lineman, lines up on the line of scrimmage. He ensures nothing gets outside of him on the run. He can do multiple coverages on the pass or he can blitz. The charley linebacker will line up on the line of scrimmage and on the inside shoulder of the tight end, to cover the tight end or making it difficult for the tight end to release easily. The middle linebacker will line up about four to four and a half yards off the line of scrimmage and directly in front of the strong offensive tackle.[9]
  • Safeties: The strong safety will line up four to four and a half yards off the line of scrimmage and will stand directly in front of the weak side tackle. The free safety will stand about ten to twelve yards away from the line of scrimmage and will stand directly in front of the weak side guard.
  • Cornerbacks: Corners will line up seven to eight yards off the line of scrimmage in front of their receivers in man-free coverage or they will play up on the line of scrimmage in bump and run coverage.

When three or more receivers are used by the offense, the defense makes what is called a jayhawk adjustment. The charlie linebacker will step back to where the middle linebacker was in the normal alignment, the middle linebacker will move to where the strong safety was aligned and the strong safety will move out to cover the third receiver. If the offense uses a fourth receiver, the middle linebacker lines up in front of the center and the charlie linebacker would cover the fourth receiver.

To note, there is nothing magical about this particular set of assignments. For example, the strong safety could assume either the charley or the jack linebacker role. The linebacker displaced would line up over the weak side offensive tackle, where the strong safety is normally found.[10]

See also



  1. ^ Ryan, Rex and Walker, Jeff, Coaching Football's 46 Defense, Coaches Choice, 2000, page 9
  2. ^ Mackall, Dave. Q&A with Doug Plank Archived 2009-02-21 at the Wayback Machine (October 19, 2006), The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved on February 16, 2008.
  3. ^ Mayer, Larry (2009-01-26). "Maynard proud of record for most punts in Super Bowl". chicagobears.com. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
  4. ^ Coaching Football's 46 Defense (The Art & Science of Coaching Series) (Paperback) by Rex Ryan
  5. ^ Jaworski et al., pp. 189-190
  6. ^ Gardner, Sam (December 8, 2015). "One & Done: Thirty years ago, Dolphins ruined Bears' perfect season". Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  7. ^ Ryan and Walker, p. 9.
  8. ^ Ryan and Walker, p. 24 and p. 29.
  9. ^ Ryan and Walker, Chapter 7.
  10. ^ Ryan and Walker, p. 20.


External links

46 (number)

46 (forty-six) is the natural number following 45 and preceding 47.

5–2 defense

In American football, the 5–2 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of five down linemen and two linebackers.

7–1–2–1 defense

The 7–1–2–1, or seven-diamond defense, used seven "down linemen", or players on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, one linebacker, two safeties relatively close to the line and one safety farther downfield. The formation was created by Minnesota coach Henry L. Williams in 1903, reputedly to stop Michigan back Willie Heston. By some accounts in the mid-1930s, the 7-1-2-1 was considered "almost obsolete" due to its weakness against the forward pass, whereas the 7-2-2 defense was still considered viable. Yet Bill Arnsparger notes the use of the seven-diamond from the 1940s into the 1960s, as a defensive adjustment to the common wide tackle 6 defenses of the time. Further, the form of the 7 diamond as derived from a wide tackle 6, with a more compact line spacing than the 1930s era 7 man lines, shows a marked similarity to the 46 defense of Buddy Ryan.

American football strategy

Strategy forms a major part of the game of American football, and both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent to score more points in order to win the game.

Buddy Ryan

James David "Buddy" Ryan (February 17, 1934 – June 28, 2016) was an American football coach in the National Football League (NFL) and American Football League (AFL). During his 35-season coaching career, Ryan served as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals, and the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears and Houston Oilers of the NFL.

Ryan began his professional coaching career as the defensive line coach for the New York Jets of the AFL for the team's Super Bowl III victory. He became the defensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings, overseeing the Purple People Eaters. He then became the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, who won Super Bowl XX. As defensive coordinator of the Bears, he is credited with creating the 46 defense, and the 1985 team led the league in nearly all defensive statistical categories. Ryan then coached the Eagles, served as defensive coordinator of the Oilers, and coached the Cardinals. He was the father of NFL coaches Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan.

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) North division. The Bears have won nine NFL Championships, including one Super Bowl, and hold the NFL record for the most enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the most retired jersey numbers. The Bears have also recorded more victories than any other NFL franchise.The franchise was founded in Decatur, Illinois, on September 17, 1920, and moved to Chicago in 1921. It is one of only two remaining franchises from the NFL's founding in 1920, along with the Arizona Cardinals, which was originally also in Chicago. The team played home games at Wrigley Field on Chicago's North Side through the 1970 season; they now play at Soldier Field on the Near South Side, next to Lake Michigan. The Bears have a long-standing rivalry with the Green Bay Packers.The team headquarters, Halas Hall, is in the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest, Illinois. The Bears practice at adjoining facilities there during the season. Since 2002, the Bears have held their annual training camp, from late July to mid-August, at Ward Field on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

Dan Hampton

Daniel Oliver Hampton also known as "Danimal" (born September 19, 1957) is a retired Hall of Fame American football defensive tackle who played twelve seasons for the Chicago Bears from 1979 to 1990 in the National Football League (NFL). He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He currently hosts the Bears postgame show on WGN Radio in Chicago.

Doug Plank

Douglas Walter Plank (born March 4, 1953) is a former American-football safety and coach in the National Football League.


A linebacker (LB or backer) is a playing position in American football and Canadian football. Linebackers are members of the defensive team, and line up approximately three to five yards (4 m) behind the line of scrimmage, behind the defensive linemen, and therefore "back up the line". Linebackers generally align themselves before the ball is snapped by standing upright in a "two-point stance" (as opposed to the defensive linemen, who put one or two hands on the ground for a "three-point stance" or "four-point stance" before the ball is snapped).

The goal of the linebacker is to provide either extra run protection or extra pass protection based on the particular defensive play being executed. Another key play of the linebacker position is blitzing. A blitz occurs when a linebacker acts as an extra pass rusher running into any exposed gap. When a blitz is called by the defense, it is mainly to sack or hurry the opposing offense's quarterback.

Linebackers are often regarded as the most important position in defense, due to their versatility in providing hard hits on running plays or an additional layer of pass protection, when required. Similar to the "free safety" position, linebackers are required to use their judgment on every snap, to determine their role during that particular play.

List of formations in American football

The following is a list of common and historically significant formations in American football. In football, the formation describes how the players in a team are positioned on the field. Many variations are possible on both sides of the ball, depending on the strategy being employed. On offense, the formation must include at least seven players on the line of scrimmage, including a center to start the play by snapping the ball.

There are no restrictions on the arrangement of defensive players, and, as such, the number of defensive players on the line of scrimmage varies by formation.

Mike Singletary

Michael Singletary (born October 9, 1958) is an American football coach and former professional football player who is currently the head coach of the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). After playing college football for Baylor University, Singletary was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 2nd round of the 1981 NFL Draft and was known as "The Heart of the Defense" for the Chicago Bears' Monsters of the Midway in the mid-1980s. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, the same year he coached Kirk Cousins in youth flag football.

Singletary later pursued a career as a coach, first as a linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens, then as the linebackers coach for the San Francisco 49ers. In 2008, the 49ers promoted Singletary to the head coaching position after previous head coach Mike Nolan was fired during the season, and he remained in that position until he was fired after the 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention with one game remaining in the 2010 season.

Monsters of the Midway

The Monsters of the Midway is most widely known as the nickname for the National Football League's Chicago Bears—particularly the dominant teams of 1940 and 1941. The name underwent something of a renewal when the 1985 edition of the Bears proved to be similarly dominant and has been used as a nickname for the Bears, in particular their intimidating defenses and linebackers, ever since. The name got another renaissance in 2006 when the Bears went back to the Super Bowl thanks to their dominant defense and again in the 2018 season, where the Chicago defense was as dominant as possible prior to their 16-15 Wild Card loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on January 6, 2019.

Otis Wilson

Otis Ray Wilson (born September 15, 1957) is a former American football linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Raiders. He won a Super Bowl as a member of the 1985 Chicago Bears. He is also the father of former Cincinnati Bengals running back Quincy Wilson.

Perry Moss

Perry Lee Moss (August 4, 1926 – August 7, 2014) was an American football player, coach, and executive. Moss played tailback at the University of Tulsa and quarterback at Illinois during the 1940s. As a Tulsa tailback, he was on the Orange Bowl team that beat Georgia Tech, 26–12, in the 1945 Orange Bowl and later as an Illinois T-quarterback, he directed a Rose Bowl team which routed UCLA, 45–14, in 1947. Moss served two years in the United States Air Force between his playing time at Tulsa and Illinois. At Illinois, he was named to All-Big Ten Conference and All-American teams. He was drafted in 1948 by the Green Bay Packers in the 13th round (111th pick overall) and played at the professional level for one year before returning to Illinois as an assistant. He started one game at quarterback for the Packers.Moss served as head baseball coach and backfield coach at the University of Miami in 1955 and University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1958. In 1959, he was named as the head football coach and athletic director at Florida State, and compiled a 4–6 record and later at Marshall University in 1968 where he compiled an 0–9–1 record before resigning in the wake of NCAA recruiting violations. Twenty-eight members of the 1969 Thundering Herd presented a petition to West Virginia Governor Arch A. Moore Jr. to reinstate Moss for 1970, but the university instead named 1969 interim coach Rick Tolley, known as a brutal disciplinarian, to the post permanently. The decision undoubtedly saved Moss' life, for Tolley, 37 players and 37 others perished on November 14, 1970 in the crash of Southern Airways Flight 932 following Marshall's loss at East Carolina.

From 1960 through 1962 he was head coach of the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. In the mid-1960s and again in the early 1980s he coached the West Virginia Rockets of the semi-pro American Football Association. In 1987, Moss was hired as the head coach of the Chicago Bruisers of the Arena Football League. In 1991, he was named as first coach of the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League and compiled a record of 59–25 before leaving the team in 1997. From 1986 to 1987, Moss was the Defensive Coordinator of the University of Central Florida, where he introduced the Chicago Bears '46' Defense, enabling UCF to record its first winning season in history. The following year, Moss's Defense led UCF to its first Division I-AA play-off appearance. Moss then resigned from UCF, and thereafter began coaching Arena Football.

Perry's son Les is also an American football coach.

Moss is a member of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. On August 7, 2014, Moss died at his home in Deltona, Florida, aged 88.

Raymond Clayborn

Raymond DeWayne Clayborn (born January 2, 1955 in Fort Worth, Texas) is a former American Football cornerback who played for the New England Patriots (1977–1989) and Cleveland Browns (1990, 1991) of the National Football League (NFL). Before his NFL career, attended Green B. Trimble Technical High School and played for the University of Texas at Austin.Clayborn made the Pro Bowl three times with the Patriots. From 1977-1982, he was paired with Hall of Fame player Mike Haynes. For his first three seasons, he also played kick returner. As a rookie, he returned 28 kickoffs for 869 yards and a league-leading 3 touchdowns, giving him an NFL-best and Patriots franchise record 31.0 yards per return average. He was a key player on three playoff teams, including 1978, 1982, and most notably 1985, recording a career-high six regular season interceptions (one for a touchdown) as the Patriots won three road playoff games en route to an improbable appearance in Super Bowl XX. In the Patriots 31-14 Conference Championship win over the Miami Dolphins, Clayborn helped frustrated Miami quarterback Dan Marino into having a terrible game during which he completed only 20 of 48 passes for 248 yards. Clayborn made one of two Patriots interceptions during the upset. In the subsequent 46-10 loss against the Bears in Super Bowl XX, the Patriots were undone by turnovers and smothered by Chicago's crushing 46 defense. Though Bears quarterbacks completed only 12 passes for 258 yards with no touchdowns, New England's secondary was beaten several times on catches for big gains. Clayborn recovered one of two Chicago fumbles while watching his offense turn the ball over six times.

An infamous story about a 1979 lockerroom confrontation between Clayborn and Boston Globe reporter Will McDonough has it that Clayborn, frustrated by his play after a 56-3 rout of the New York Jets, got into a shoving match with McDonough. The writer is said to have knocked the 6’0” 200 lbs. Pro Bowl corner into a laundry cart, but the story is likely apocryphal.Clayborn finished his career with 36 interceptions, which he returned for 555 yards and a touchdown. He also returned 57 kickoffs for 1,538 yards and 3 touchdowns, and recovered 4 fumbles. At the time of his retirement, his 36 interceptions were a Patriots record. He is currently the NFL Uniform Program Representative for the Houston Texans.

He was elected to the New England Patriots Hall of Fame in 2017. On July 29, 2017, he signed a 1-day contract (at his request) prior to being inducted to officially retire as a New England Patriot.

Robert Rubel

Robert Rubel is an American football coach. He served as the head football coach at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas for one season, in 2006. Rubel had interviewed for the head position at Texas A&M University–Kingsville, considered to be one of the more prestigious coaching opportunities in NCAA Division II and was asked by the Tabor administration not to return. In his one season as head coach, the team accomplished a record of 6–4. Rubel was only the second coach in school history to have a winning record in his first season.Rubel is known as a defensive coach and has long been a proponent of the 46 Defense. At Cisco College he had the 13th-ranked defense in the nation, giving up 278 yards per game. Cisco also ranked third nationally in turnovers with 35, and first in interceptions with 21. At North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS), his defense ranked ninth nationally with 227 yards per game, and helped NDSCS to a Graphic Edge Bowl win. At Tabor, the defense was ranked 12th in the nation in rush defense at 88 yards per game, 24th in total defense at 262 yards per game, and 26th in scoring defense at 19 points per game, while breaking the school record for defensive touchdowns. At Buffalo High School, the defense was first in the district in scoring defense and fourth in the region, taking the team to its first playoff win in 55 years, and first 10 win season in 56 years. In his first season at Robinson High School, the scoring defense improved 21 points per game in district.

Rubel was an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. He also was an assistant coach at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. Rubel has coached at several high schools, and is currently a consultant, and the defensive coordinator at Robinson High School in Texas.

Shelbyville, Kentucky

Shelbyville is a home rule-class city in and the county seat of Shelby County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 14,045 at the 2010 census.

Super Bowl XX

Super Bowl XX was an American football game between the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Chicago Bears and the American Football Conference (AFC) champion New England Patriots to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1985 season. The Bears defeated the Patriots by the score of 46–10, capturing their first NFL championship (and Chicago's first overall sports victory) since 1963, three years prior to the birth of the Super Bowl. Super Bowl XX was played on January 26, 1986, at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

This was the fourth Super Bowl where both teams were making their Super Bowl debuts. The Bears entered the game after becoming the second team in NFL history to win 15 regular season games. With their then-revolutionary 46 defense, Chicago led the league in several defensive categories, outscored their opponents with a staggering margin of 456–198, and recorded two postseason shutouts. The Patriots were considered a Cinderella team during the 1985 season, and posted an 11–5 regular season record, but entered the playoffs as a wild card because of tiebreakers. But defying the odds, New England posted three road playoff wins to advance to Super Bowl XX.

In their victory over the Patriots, the Bears set or tied Super Bowl records for sacks (seven), fewest rushing yards allowed (seven), and margin of victory (36 points). At the time, New England broke the record for the quickest lead in Super Bowl history, with Tony Franklin's 36-yard field goal 1:19 into the first quarter after a Chicago fumble. But the Patriots were eventually held to negative yardage (−19) throughout the entire first half and finished with just 123 total yards from scrimmage, the second lowest total yards in Super Bowl history, behind the Minnesota Vikings (119 total yards) in Super Bowl IX. Bears defensive end Richard Dent, who had 1.5 quarterback sacks, forced two fumbles, and blocked a pass, was named the game's Most Valuable Player (MVP).The telecast of the game on NBC was watched by an estimated 92.57 million viewers. To commemorate the 20th Super Bowl, all previous Super Bowl MVPs were honored during the pregame ceremonies.

Terry Hoage

Terrell Lee "Terry" Hoage (born April 11, 1962) is a former American college and professional football player who was a safety in the National Football League (NFL) for thirteen seasons during the 1980s and 1990s. Hoage played college football for the University of Georgia, and was recognized as an All-American. He played professionally for the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Oilers and Arizona Cardinals of the NFL.

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