A prevent defense is a defensive alignment that aims to stop opponents from completing long passes. Prevents defenses place a large number of defenders deep into the defensive backfield. This alignment is mainly used when looking to close out a game or half.
In most cases, a prevent defense is going to be put into action when a team is about to win a game. When the opposing team needs to score a touchdown or two with little time left they will be forced to attempt long passes.
Knowing this teams respond with the prevent defense. This style of defense makes it much more difficult to make long passes but gives the offense plenty of space close to the line of scrimmage.
Understanding The Prevent Defense
Prevent defenses are often criticized because they can easily allow the opposing team to pick up five to ten yards each play. This is why this defense is mainly used when time plays a major factor in the opponents play selection.
If a team were to attempt to use this alignment for an entire game the offense would have an easy time moving the ball.
With this defense there will usually only be three players rushing the passer. The other eight defenders will drop back into coverage. Usually, this will involve at least three players sitting as deep into the defensive backfield as a single high safety would.
If the end zone is in range of a pass this prevent defense will often put several players on the goal line ready to bat down a hail mary throw.
Additionally, a prevent defense will often protect the sideline. When players are able to travel out of bounds after catching the ball this will stop the clock.
By protecting the sideline the defense can ensure that the clock stays running making it more difficult for the offense to get down the field late in the game.
Why Do Teams Do A Prevent Defense
Now that you have learned what a prevent defense is you may be wondering why teams use this alignment. Below we break down some of the main reasons the prevent defense is used in football.
To Protect A Large Lead
One of the main reasons that a team sends out a prevent defense is to protect a large lead. So for example a team is up twenty-one points with five minutes left.
There is almost no way for the opponent to come back and win unless they score a few quick touchdowns.
In this instance, the defense may realize the only play they need to stop is a deep pass. This leaves short gains open for the offense but since they need a large number of yards they will have to overlook their nearby open receivers.
In most cases, a team would not be able to come back from this deficit either way. But with the prevent defense a team can make the comeback even more unlikely.
Stopping A Hail Mary
Another reason a team may use a prevent defense is when the opposing team attempts a hail mary. A hail mary in football refers to a play in which the offense throws up a deep ball into the end zone in a desperate attempt to score.
These plays happen far away from the endzone which makes their success quite unlikely.
Since the defense will often know a hail mary is coming they will send out the prevent defense.
In these situations, the defense is going to line up a large number of defenders in the end zone. This way when the ball comes in the defenders will jump up in an attempt to swat it down.
Keeping A Team Out Of Field Goal Range
If a team receives the ball with a small amount of time on the clock they will often attempt to move up the field quickly for a field goal.
In some situations, teams will need fifty or more yards with only enough time to run a few plays. This often results in a prevent defense coming on the field. This alignment will stop the opponents from completing a long pass to enter field goal range.
Additionally, since this defense protects the sideline the offense will have to use timeouts in order to stop the clock.