If you're needing help with how to run the ball in Madden 21, we've got a full breakdown with fresh tips right here.

Madden 21 Guide: How to Run the Ball

If you're needing help with how to run the ball in Madden 21, we've got a full breakdown with fresh tips right here.

Check your calendars and set your clocks appropriately. It’s officially Madden Season. Madden 21, EA’s latest installment in the annual football sim franchise, is out now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. If you’re looking for tips on how to run the ball against the CPU or other players online in MUT and Franchise mode, we’ve got you covered. 

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Our latest guide will cover the deceptively deep elements of the ground game in Madden. Here’s how to run the ball in Madden 21 effectively.

The Basics

Naturally, every player will run in the direction you point by default, but to get the most out of your ballcarriers, here’s what you need to know.

Action Input Xbox Input PS4
Sprint RT R2
Protect Ball RB R1
Hurdle Y Triangle
Dive X Square
Spin B Circle
Stiff Arm A X
Pitch LB L1
Hesitation Right stick down Right stick down
Juke Right stick right/left Right stick right/left
Truck Right stick up Right stick up
Stumble Recovery Right stick down w/
green arrow prompt (QTE)
Right stick down w/
green arrow prompt (QTE)


Tips and Tricks

Precision Modifiers

Precision modifiers came into the game a few years back and offer players additional ways to use their moves. Designed for the best players on the sticks, these mod moves turn Madden into something more akin to a fighting game where you can chain together smart maneuvers while managing your stamina to leave defenders looking foolish.

If you’re a beginner, we recommend laying off the left shoulder trigger for now. Most of the moves listed above do just fine without precision modifiers, which are really in place for the competitive scene.

For more experienced players, these modifiers can be super effective in harder difficulties and online leagues. If you’ve got the talent at a skill position, you’ll definitely want to use modifiers sometimes, though even then, you shouldn’t stick to them at all times.

A good balance of quicker normal maneuvers and the more stamina-reducing but potentially touchdown-making modifier moves takes practice, but in time, you’ll start to gauge when is the right time for each.

Our tip? If you’ve got one man to beat down the sideline, it’s a great time for a modified stiff arm or spin move, but if you’re trying to stay upright through a crowd of defenders, it’s better to lay off the shoulder button.

Don’t Spam Sprint

Take special notice of this tip, as it’s a cardinal sin of so many Madden players, even seasoned veterans.

You may think sprint = faster and faster is better, but you’d be wrong. Sprinting burns your stamina and could lead to you overrunning your blockers at the line or downfield.

Instead, save the sprint ability until you’re in open space, or if you need to beat that last defender with a quick change of pace. You may catch them off guard and playing the wrong angle, which will soon leave them in the grass behind you, watching you celebrate.

Learn Run Concepts and Follow Your Blockers

Shedding a defender in Madden 20 with a stiff arm.

On a basic level, there are passing plays and running plays, but you’re not going to win much of anything with such a superficial understanding of the playbook.

If you’re looking to improve your ground game, it’s necessary to familiarize yourself with the many run concepts seen in the NFL and Madden. For example, a draw is when the QB drops back to pass and after a short delay, hands it off to the running back. These are good to use when you’ve got the defense thinking a pass is coming because it even looks like one for that half-second you need to trick them.

Another popular concept is the sweep. With a sweep, the ball is pitched backward to the RB as he runs almost parallel to the line of scrimmage to bounce all the way outside of the defensive line. It’s important to give your blockers time to get in front of you. Cutting the corner or rushing to the edge is counterproductive. Have patience and you’ll be better off for it.

In every play, there is a lane or “hole” you’re meant to hit. Sometimes other lanes may look more inviting, but that may be by design to deceive defenses, and either way, your blockers won’t be on the same page as you if you try to improvise. Before the ball is snapped, double-check your play art by holding the right trigger. This will show you what your blockers are doing, what hole you’re meant to hit, and how many defenders are in the “box.”

There are a wide range of run concepts to explore and once you recognize what their names mean, you can start to decode your playbook better, which in turn saves a lot of time in the huddle. 

To explore every run concept we recommend the Skills Trainer. You can find it from the main menu by going to Exhibition>Skills Trainer>Run Concepts.

How to Scramble with the QB

When a passing play breaks down and you’ve got a real dual-threat on the field like, say, Tom Brady (kidding), you’ll want to know how to tuck the ball away and run it to avoid the sack.

To do this, point where you want to go with the left stick and hold the right shoulder button (RT/R2). Your QB will be off to the races, and assuming you’ve got someone like Russell Wilson or Patrick Mahomes under center, they may be just as dangerous on the ground as they are through the air.

If you want to know how to slide so your QB doesn’t get injured, we’ve got a guide for that

Protect the Football

Fumbling the football can be more deflating than a Patriots ball boy, so it’s important to know when to cover the ball and protect it from being stripped away from you.

You can use “RB” or “R1” on Xbox and PS4 respectively to cover the ball, which improves your chances of not losing it. Defenders have the ability to go for the strip with their own button press, so when the game is on the line or you’ve got a particularly grabby opponent, it’s wise to get used to keeping it cradled.

Take note, however, that this move does slow you down and basically guarantees an attempted tackle will be successful. Covering the ball is great for when you need to pick up a few important yards and keep the drive moving without any turnovers, like when you’re killing the clock or when your opponent is desperate for another offensive possession.

Know Your Players

The last tip we have to offer future gridiron gurus is to know who has the ball, their strengths, and their weaknesses. While all players have this large repertoire of moves available to them, it should go without saying that not all athletes are created equal and that’s true in Madden, too.

If you have a bruising back like Derrick Henry, using his truck ability (88) or stiff-arm (98) may be a wise choice, while the shiftier maneuvers like juking (96) and spinning (92) should be left to more agile backs like Christian McCaffrey. If a player doesn’t have a skill somewhere in the mid-80s at least, it’s not really part of their toolset, so play to their strengths instead of their weaknesses.

Of course, there are some dynamos like Saquon Barkley that will adeptly beat defenders with any and all moves you choose to use, but for most players, you’ll want to peek at their stats or know them from real life and use them accordingly.

That’s it for how to run the ball in Madden 21. If you’re looking for more tips on dominating the competition, be sure to head here for a growing collection of guides. The latest entry in the franchise is out now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It will release later in 2020 for Xbox Series X and PS5. 

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Mark Delaney
Mark is a dad, husband, bicyclist, animal rights activist, and a gamer, of course. You can find him on all platforms covering co-op, indies, horror, battle royale, or whatever else he's obsessing over right now. In addition to GameSkinny, he's been published on GameSpot, IGN, GamesRadar, EGM, Escapist, Official Xbox Magazine, and a bunch of other great outlets.