American Football 46 Defense: Is The 46 Defense Too Much for Offense? 

John Rizzo

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American Football 46 Defense

Football defense comes in different formations! Each of them is unique in strategy and purpose. Our educational guide discussed strategies like Football 4-4 Defense, 3-Point Stance, and 4-Point Stance

Today, we will learn about another defense strategy in football and that’s Football 46 defense.  

American Football is more than touchdowns and field goals. It is a tactical play on the gridiron, where every move counts. The Football 46 defense delivers a vital blow in this gameplay and how’s that? 

Well! That’s what we are going to unpack today. Let’s talk it out in detail. 

Do you know? 

  • The 46 Defense is named after Chicago Bears’ former player, Doug Plank with jersey number 46. Coach Buddy Ryan, who developed the defense, named it after Plank.
  • The Chicago Bears highly used the 46 Defense during their 1985 Super Bowl-NFL season. Eventually, it earned the name 46 Bear Defense with its leverage. 
  • The defense loved to blitz. It was not unusual to see defensive backs like safeties and cornerbacks joining the pass rush to overwhelm the offense.  
  • The 46 Defense was developed on the idea of controlling the line of scrimmage, The defense disturbs plays in the backfield and puts pressure on the quarterback. 
  • Modern American football may not apply the 46 defense effectively today but the elements like aggressive blitzing, still influence modern defensive schemes and strategies. 

Football 46 Defense

The 46 defense in football became popular in the NFL during the 1980s. As mentioned earlier, this defense was the brainchild of the legendary Buddy Ryan. He not only designed the 46 defense but also shaped it with perfection. 

Initially, Ryan wanted to put high pressure on the opposing quarterback and disrupt offensive plays. And so, the 46 defense was born! 

The formation is the primary feature of the football 46 defense. In this defense, 

Four Defensive Linemen: The 4 in the 46 defense represent four down linemen. It involves two defensive tackles and two defensive ends. The primary job of the linemen is to push the quarterback and prevent runs. 

Six Linebackers: The formation also features six linebackers. Four of the linebackers stand close to the line of scrimmage. They are often referred to as the 46 linebackers.  The aggressive play and ability to blitz effectively are what describes them the best.  

Four Defensive Backs: The other remaining players (two cornerbacks and two safeties) in the 46 defense are defensive backs. Their role in the play is specified also. They offer pass coverage support and help defend the deep pass.

The 46 formation can be the exact clever move your team needs! As it creates chaos in the offensive backfield, the aggressive and physical style of this defense is highly effective in critical scenarios.  

When to Use the Football 46 Defense?  

When to Use the Football 46 Defense?  

Now we know the formation and alignment of the 46 defense. But if you are just starting out with different strategies of football, it might hit your mind hard, when is the perfect time to apply the 46 defense? Keep reading to find out. 

1) Your Opponent Is Strong

The defense is great when you’re facing a team that runs the ball a lot, ideal to put additional pressure near the line of scrimmage. The running backs would merely find holes to run through. 

Think of Derrick Henry, the star running back from the Tennessee Titans. When you are playing against Derrick, the 46 defense can be a successful solution. 

2) You Need to Biltz 

One of the primary reasons for utilizing the 46 defense is when you need to blitz the quarterback AGGRESSIVELY. You will have to send more players to deal with the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.  

It can disrupt the quarterback and force your opponents into rush decisions. So, when you are defending Patrick Mahomes, an American football quarterback, from the Kansas City Chiefs, the 46 defense is the most effective solution. 

3) Cover Short Yardage 

Sometimes things may go out of hand and your opponent will have a high probability of scoring, particularly near the goal line. In such events, you do what you need to and implement the 46 defense.

Is this defense effective in short-yardage? More than you can think of! The offense will have a tough time running or passing in tight spaces, with the 46 formations. It will ensure coverage in short-yard zones.   

4) Need to Take Risk

Often in football, a bigger move can be a game changer. Sometimes you need to take some risk and play a bit aggressively. The 46 defense can be an all-solution in such scenarios. It can be the last resort to protect your end zone. 

It is important to note that, the Football 46 defense shouldn’t be used all the time. Rather, it is a strategy saved for later-specific situations. Without a smart coach, the implementation of the 46 defense may not always be affirmative! 

Strength & Weakness of Football 46 Defense

Strength & Weakness of Football 46 Defense

Like any other formation of football, the 46 defense is also not free of charge! We will start with the strength first! Then have a look at the weakness. 


  • Two players start each play at the line of scrimmage. It often jams the sight of the offensive linemen, and they can’t easily double-team! 
  • Not an easy go for the offense, and they may need to repeatedly adjust their strategy, without any stability. 
  • The opposite team most often remains under pressure, with too many defenders to block. 
  • The defense can adapt to different defensive strategies, often leaving the offense in guess.


  • Short passing routes can be a tricky solution against the 46 defense. 
  • May not be so easy for the rookie defenders to fully digest the strategy of this defense. 
  • Even though the formation was built to create pressure! But once your opponent successfully consumes the load, it will be a tough game ahead of you. 

Final Words

The fundamentals of football lie in its formation and strategies. You may have a powerful opponent against you, but with the right formation and strategy, you can win the game! 

This is why it is important to learn about different formations of football including the football 46 defense. Lucky for you! We share regular and useful content on American Football and other sports. 

Don’t forget to have a look at our blog section! We will be back soon. 

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John Rizzo

I am a professional rugby player in the Washington DC-Baltimore area. I have been playing rugby for over 10 years and have had the opportunity to play in many different countries. I am also a coach for both youth and adult rugby teams. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. I am currently working on my MPA from American University and plan to pursue this career path after graduating next year. LinkedIn