Photo: Andy Hilton/recruit757
With the 4-6 defense, what’s old is new again
by Anthony Bateman, a special contribution to recruit757
It seems old defenses are making a comeback on different levels to combat certain styles of offense.
As I sat watching Super Bowl 53 I quickly noticed that New England was lining up in a defensive front that looked familiar to me, but the reason it looked familiar is what is unique. A few years ago I took a particular interest in the old 46 Defense, invented by the late Buddy Ryan in 1984 and made famous by the dominance of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears. I decided that I would attempt to install this defense myself at the high school level based upon some of the advantages I felt it gave a defense as well as the issues it caused opposing offenses.
Super Bowl LIII – New England vs. Los Angeles
In the Super Bowl, I noticed that the Patriots had deployed one the fronts utilized by Buddy Ryan all those years ago. The Patriots deployed a six man front and had the Middle Linebacker stacked over top the Center, this obviously caused the Rams issues who were held to just 62 yards rushing.
The high flying Los Angeles Rams were simply shut down by a defensive scheme that they had to figure out as the game went on. Belichick’s new twist on an old scheme was a key to the Patriots’ Super Bowl win.
1985 Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
As you can see in the second image the 1985 Bears used a similar look at times including in a 44-0 shutout of the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
It actually is more interesting than that however, Virginia Tech famously used one of the 46 alignments in its 2014 upset win over Ohio State and was so successful that the Hokies used multiple 46 alignments and coverage concepts all year that season.
Chicago Bears in the 4-6 Defense
In recent years Rex and Rob Ryan, sons of the late legend have used their fathers defense while with the Ravens, Jets, Saints, Bills, etc and have enjoyed success. In 2009 and 2010 Rex Ryan’s defense led the Jets to the brink of the Super Bowl with Mark Sanchez at Quarterback.
2013 Buffalo Bills at the Baltimore Ravens
It’s amazing to see two images nearly 30 years apart but be the exact same, in fact many of today’s well known NFL defensive coordinators were Assistants under Buddy Ryan including Wade Phillips and Gregg Williams. In 2009 Gregg Williams while defensive coordinator in New Orleans used one of Buddy’s rotation coverage’s as his base, this coverage is called Cover 7 and is outlines in this article from the National Football Post.
The question is why? Why are elements of the 46 defense showing up at the College and Pro level? The answer to this is simple, the 46 defense puts a tremendous amount of pressure on blocking schemes both run and pass. The defense also allows for coverage’s to be disguised while at any moment sending a tremendous amount of pressure on the opposing Quarterback. The style of defense the 46 deploys is very aggressive and fast, easy to adjust to formations and easy to teach to younger players. Unlike popular belief it is way more than a eight man box and man coverage it is a defense, and don’t look now but its still alive and showing itself from time to time.
– Anthony Bateman