Play By Play Reporting
In the descriptions of the results the idea is to report key characteristics on each play. A "breakout" means that someone missed a tackle, allowing the runner to make extra yardage. The characteristic which caused the breakout is reported (e.g.: lead block, run breakout). "Stuffed" means that one of the defensive players penetrated into the backfield and made the play before the running back reached the line of scrimmage. "Run broken up" means the play would have been stuffed, but the running back evaded the stuffer and made something on the play anyway. "QB hurried" means that the quarterback was pressured by the pass-rush before being ready to throw to the intended receiver. "No open receiver" means that the QB had time to pass the ball, but the intended receiver was not open. Both reports mean that the QB had to look for a second option. He may "scramble" to gain yardage himself, try to look for a secondary receiver to whom the pass can be "dumped off' or "checked off". Alternatively he may fail and get sacked. "Blitz picked up" means that a running back picked up and blocked a blitzer and prevented a hurry or sack, giving the team the chance to complete the original pass. The more backs a team has in the formation the better the chance of picking up the blitz. If you call a pass to a running back, he can't hang around to pick up blitzes (so a one back offence lacks the ability to do both at once). On interceptions "picked off" means that a defensive back made the play and took the ball away, whereas other messages mean the quarterback or someone else made a mistake (a giveaway). On pass receptions "popped", "nailed" or "decked" means that a defensive player hit the receiver immediately after the catch. Pops are most likely on inside patterns. All pass receivers can be popped, but wide receivers often lack the nerve and durability of running backs and tight ends. Receivers who can catch the ball while scanning the field for approaching safeties are rare.


Plays & Formations
You cannot complete a pass to a player who is not on the field. This does not mean you cannot complete a pass when you call a play to a player who is not on the field, because you can dump it off to someone else but your chances of making a play if you do so are greatly reduced. Running plays are different: at present your rating is reduced for screwing up the formation, and the chances of all the bad things increase (fumbles, penalties, stuffs).


Penalty calls are mostly connected to particular events and are quite likely to be meaningful. Silly combinations of plays and formations (lead runs with only one running back, tight end passes when none are on the field, etc), poor team ratings on the plays called, lack of training on the plays called and playing hard all affect the number and type of penalties called against you. Most interference and holding penalties occur when your guys need to interfere or hold (your guys are telling you they can't cope and need some help from the coach). The false start and incidental face mask penalties are applied in the same circumstances. The delay of game, illegal motion, illegal shift and illegal procedure penalties ("confusion penalties") indicate bad combinations of plays and formations.


Your accumulated keys are quite distinct from your keys for the game itself. Don't rely on accumulated keys to stop a play, and don't make the mistake of treating your keys the same way as your training. Keys are far more significant than accumulated keys.


Play Action
The effectiveness of a play action pass depends very much on both the defence called and on the credibility of the fake. If you have established that you can run then the defence is more likely to buy the fake (quite apart from being more likely to call a run defence in the first place). If there are still defensive backs lurking in the deep then all you're doing is taking a potential blocking back out of the play, reducing the ability of your quarterback to read the defence and maybe faking the linebackers a step or two out of position.


Run & Shoot
If you want to try playing a run and shoot style offence then you should be aware that this version lacks one of the essential play calls (an option pass or audible draw play). A true "run and shoot" is therefore not yet possible, and won't be possible until a system of quarterback audibles can be introduced (it's a difficult concept, having quarterbacks calling audibles under the orders of the coach). Remember that the key to the Run & Shoot is the run, and the ability of the offence to establish a credible running game with only one back and no tight end. It doesn't have to be a superb running game, but it does need to be sufficient to keep the defence off balance.


Pass Offence
It is essential to understand that the most important component is your pass protection, and that it is important to have some sort of running game to keep the defence off balance. Scattering receivers to the four winds will do you no good whatever if your quarterback is carried away in a bucket. Don't neglect the secondary receivers. Tight ends and running backs can be harder to defend, because they offer alternative threats. To build a good passing game you need to mix it up, passing long (which forces the cornerbacks to back off) and short, using all your receivers. If the defence doesn't have to cover them all, then they'll get the coverage right too often.


Game Balance
Game balance varies from league to league. In some leagues everyone builds monster offensive lines, and then we're told it's too easy to run. In other leagues they don't ' and then complain that they can't run at all. The balance in the NFL does shift around as well, but it's less obvious because there are no other NFL's to compare with. Don't expect things that work well in one league to necessarily work well in another league, because all of the rosters and coaches are different. The effect of coaching on the play balance is very significant.


Common Faults
Gameplan coaches often spend too much time trying to find dominating strategies and not actually trying to stop their opponents. A common reaction to a league full of big offensive lines is to go and get one yourself, but the smart solution would be to draft run stoppers and get ahead of the game.


Defensive Adjustments
The defences make a number of adjustments during the game. In this version the defences adjust more quickly than before to the offence repeatedly calling the same play. Teams need to vary their play-calling, but should still try to stick to their strengths. Against "regular" plays (runs off tackle, etc) the defence reacts slowly, but against trick plays (reverses, etc) the defence learns very quickly. Some of the plays which are most appropriate for regular use can be achieved with more than one variation of the same play call (e.g. sweep with SW, PW or TW, draw with DR, DE or QD, and run off tackle with RT, LT and RO).


Defensive Balance

In addition to these play adjustments the defence will also adjust to the run/pass balance and to the short/long pass balance. If the offence is running far more than passing, then the defensive line adjusts to the run at the expense of the pass. If the offence is throwing too many short passes, then the defensive backs tighten their coverage, closing down on short passes, and making themselves vulnerable to the long pass. There are two ways to coach a high scoring offence. One is to smash the defence flat by doing one thing so well that they cannot stop it. The other is to keep the defence off balance, by mixing up your plays and making the defence adjust to whatever you did last Oust in time for you to do something different).


Don't call the dumpoff patterns in your gameplan. The dumpoffs are what your quarterback will-try and throw if his primary receiver isn't open, assuming the defence hasn't yet buried him. It's quite common for the primary receiver to be covered, so the quarterback will then look for a secondary receiver or even to scramble. The dumpoff patterns are worth training on, because this improves the chances of completing them when they're thrown, but you shouldn't call them yourself within your gameplan, as this is the same as telling your quarterback to ignore his primary receiver, regardless of whether he gets open or not.