Packers Playbook, Part 7: The Prevent Defenses All Green Bay Packers All the Time

Packers Playbook LogoIn our seventh part of this series, we are going to take a look at the two types of “prevent” defenses used by the Green Bay Packers and other teams: the “Quarter” and “Half Dollar.” These obviously continue the naming sequence used by the Nickel and Dime packages. The prevent defenses boast seven or more defensive backs and, as its name implies, is used to prevent a quick score.

Explaining the Formation

Prevent defenses add extra defensive backs in an effort to keep the offense from getting behind them. In other words, they aim to keep the ball in front of them, avoid a deep completion, and make the offense eat up time. This means they’re often used when little time is left on the clock and the opposition is trailing in points.

The Quarter defense is composed of seven defensive backs – two or three safeties and four or five cornerbacks. Up front, you’ll generally see one defensive lineman and three linebackers from 3-4 defenses, creating a 1-3-7 personnel grouping. Most likely the defense will use two outside linebackers as pass rushers and an inside linebacker to cover the middle of the field.

When we get to the Half Dollar defense, the number of defensive backs rises to eight. (Obviously, this tends to be almost all of the cornerbacks and safeties on the active roster.) In maintaining a three-man rush, you will often see the inside linebacker come off the field to accommodate the enlarged secondary (1-2-8 personnel). The Half Dollar is rare and primarily used to defend the Hail Mary pass in the final seconds of the game or the half.

One really interesting thing to note at this juncture is that Dom Capers seemed to use the Half Dollar personnel more than the Quarter personnel in 2012. I don’t have any statistical data to back this up, but as I browsed through NFL Rewind looking for examples of each, I found it very difficult to find examples of the Quarter defense. In fact, Capers would often use a Bat package (1-4-6) in the early part of a prevent drive before switching to the Half Dollar. Those Bat packages would generally use Jerel Worthy as the linemen, Clay Matthews and Erik Walden as the rushing linebackers, and Brad Jones and Dezman Moses as the coverage linebackers.

Finally, these types of defenses often get ugly comments from fans due to their use of the “three-man rush” – mostly because it’s not very aggressive. However, in 2011 I did a video analysis and statistical presentation on the three-man rush and its effectiveness for the Packers. Obviously, some things have changed since then, but I would highly suggest checking out those articles for some further information.

The Prevent Defense in Action

I know I’ve been digging up some past transgressions lately, but this example of the Half Dollar defense comes from the “Fail Mary” drive by the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 of 2012. There are 12 seconds left in the game, and the Seahawks are on their fifth play of the drive. It’s 3rd-and-10 on the Packers 24-yard line with the score 12-7 in the Packers’ favor.

Breaking Down the Play

The Seahawks come out in the shotgun with an empty backfield. It’s a five-wide set in a 3×2 formation, and they know they have about two more chances to throw the ball and get the go-ahead touchdown. They are also out of timeouts, so the Seahawks want to avoid any outcomes that keep the game clock ticking.

The Packers counter with eight defensive backs and a three-man rush consisting of Clay Matthews, Jerel Worthy, and Nick Perry. They are showing a three-deep shell with Morgan Burnett, Tramon Williams, and M.D. Jennings. Sam Shields and Casey Hayward are manned up against the outside receivers, while Jarrett Bush and Charles Woodson take the slots. Jerron McMillian one-on-one with the split end in the middle of the field.

One quick thing to notice is how Casey Hayward and Jarrett Bush are trying to play with outside leverage and force the receivers to the inside. Not only are they trying to funnel the routes towards safety help, but they’re also working to stop the receivers from getting out of bounds on a completion.

Here are how the routes develop:


On the snap and dropback, Russell Wilson is clearly scanning the right half of the field, which is one reason he doesn’t go to the curl route on the far left. He makes a quick throw – the play only takes four seconds – but more for time management than due to the pass rush. The ball gets forced to Golden Tate in a very small window of opportunity, but is quickly defended by Woodson with some help from Hayward.

Pay attention to the three-man shell over the top. Not only do they line up about 20-yards away from the line of scrimmage, but they also backpedal about five more yards on the snap. In this type of defense, you definitely won’t see the safety trying to make a play underneath the receiver. More than ever, they are the very last line of defense to prevent a score.

Aside from that, it’s a very basic play. And really, that’s what you’re going to get a lot of times from this type of defense. The coordinator doesn’t want to do anything too complicated and risk having the players get caught with their pants down. The defense – and secondary in particular – simply needs to line up and play with good, solid technique.


Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski


3 thoughts on “Packers Playbook, Part 7: The Prevent Defenses

  1. Was that replay right before the “fail mary”? Cuz if it was, it looks to me like Woodson dropped an INT, that would have sealed the W for the Packers.

    1. Yup. And two plays before this one, Shields was very close to an end zone interception, as well.

      Always a game of inches…

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