Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bear Front Defenses

While many of you are aware of the Bear Front defenses in you defensive playbooks, the majority don't use it because of your lack of understanding of the scheme behind it.Every defensive package should have some sort of Bear Front in its package it is set up. The 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 have a version based off the 46 (pronounced “forty-six” not “Four-Six)Defense that was designed in the early 1980s by Buddy Ryan with the Chicago Bears. Most folks know that – and hence, the nickname, “Bear” Defense. It was the defense of the dominant 1985 Bears team. This is also the front used in Arizona’s “Desert Swarm defense back in the day and the same defense that Army is using today (A mixture of the 3-4 and 3-3-5).

The defense has its basis in the old 5-2 Double Eagle front and is easy to stem in and out of from your base defenses. It is an 8-man, run-stopping front that works well with man coverages and with Cover 3.


The alignment of the Bear Defense revolves around the 3-0-3 alignment in the middle. This means we have a Defensive Lineman aligned on the outside shoulder of each of the Guards, and a head up Nose Guard. The biggest advantage of this front is its almost impossible to create double teams, especially on your Nose Guard.

The weak side Defensive End stays in a 5-Technique. On the strong side, one Linebacker/SS is going to walk up on the inside foot of the Tight End while another Linebacker or Safety is going to walk up on the outside foot of the Tight End. Whoever is doing this is going to be based on the Defensive playbook, so don’t get caught up in the letters.

Run Fits

There’s no better front for stopping the run than the Bear. The 3-0-3 techniques are great for stuffing runs up the middle and forces your opponent to take runs to the outside. This, by design, the contain players on the perimeter will make or break if this defense works for you or not. If they don't keep a proper contain on the perimeter you’re going to be open to the outside run play all day, so you definately have to be careful with your play selection.

There are all sorts of Run fits in these playbooks. Cover 1 Plug from the 46 Bear, Storm Read from the 3-3-5 Bear, and the MLB Blitz from the 4-2-5 Bear.


As mentioned, the coverage for the Bear Front Defense is mostly going to be Cover 0, Cover 1 or Cover 3 – which should be the case with any 8-man front defense, unless you’re running the 3-3-5 Bear version which is the only Bear Front that offers a Cover 2 “Robber” (which you already know Im a fan of) in the Spy 2 Blitz play and my personal opinion is that it should be in every bear front scheme. )That’s going to be the basic look.

You can get creative with your coverages in any defensive front, but the reality is, you are limited in coverages with the 46 Defense. Bear defense coverages are pretty well limited to Cover 0, Cover 1, and Cover 3.

Cover 1

The primary Bear Defense coverage is the Cover 1, with man coverage and one safety helping over the top. This allows a 4 to 5 man rush on the QB.

4-2-5 offers 3 versions of Cover 1. One that I like to play with is QB contain. Sometimes I decide to make adjustments to this play (IE Canceling out the contain) but I usually get a good amount of pressure with it on verses a user that knows how to use the option playbooks.

CB Fire 1 is a great play to use on passing downs when the ball is on the hash. I personally like to send corner blitzes on from the boundary (short) side of the field. Many people think they are useless plays and twice as many never expect them.

Cover 0

The next coverage for the Bear Defense is a Cover 0, Man Coverage with no help over top and a 6 man rush. All 6 players lined up on the line will rush, with the Free Safety taking the Tight End or the Halfback. If you've shown a lot of Zone plays from the Bear, try mixing in some Cover 0

4-2-5 plays:
MLB Blitz and Strong Safety Fire

3-3-5 plays:
Monster Green, Fire Green and Middle Plug

Cover 3

Finally, the Cover 3 is the natural fit for zone coverage in the Bear Defense.

The Free Safety and the two Corners handle the deep 1/3′s, which is pretty standard in Cover 3.

You have the option of making this a 4 under, 3 deep coverage with a 4 man rush or a 3 under, 3 deep coverage more closely associated with Fire Zone blitzes and 5 man pressure. How you want to create the 3 under, 3 deep (or any zone coverage out of the Bear Defense) is going to depend on your personnel. You may not have an End who can drop off, so you’d need to adapt.

Thoughts on Coverages
The Bear Defense is an attack-style defense. It is for causing havoc in the backfield. Man coverage is best for quick throws, because your guys are playing closer to the receivers.

If you’re going to run the Bear Defense, you need to be forcing quick throws with heavy pressure from the guys on the defensive front.

Strengthening Your Bear Front

I suggest building a stronger line for something like this by Formation Subbing. Making sure that your largest and best tackle is at Nose and, depending on what base defense your using, that your 3tech players are Tackles too. I also experimented with adding a 4-4 and 3-5-3 personnel to these packages in these playbook and had pretty good results. The fact that the Bear coverage scheme is mostly Man coverage, the only plays you have to be careful of is Cover 2 Man when using the same formation subs.

(H/t to DrB at and Coach Joe Danienl at

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