April 5, 2024

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What is a Play-Action in Football? An Ultimate Explanation

6 min read
what is play-action in football

When describing what is happening on offense, announcers and analysts frequently use the term “play-action.” What does the football term “play-action” mean? We’ll outline the various play-action variations in this article, along with their rationale for usage by teams.

Football is a game of decisions and assignments. Routes, blocks, and, if you’re the quarterback, defense reading, are the duties of each offensive player. If the quarterback anticipates a big play, they might audible to play action.

So what does football play action mean? A play-action is a deceptive play that can be used to throw off the defense and implemented by many of the top offenses in football. It’s designed to look like a running play, but instead, a pass is thrown, often long. For more information on how play action in football works, read this article.

What is a Play-Action in Football?

A play-action pass in American football imitates a running play by moving the ball quickly. When the quarterback receives the snap, whether from shotgun formation or under center, the sequence begins. As if they were blocking for a run play, the offensive blockers immediately engage the defense at the line of scrimmage after the snap.

The quarterback simultaneously pretends to pass the ball to the running back before quickly passing it to a tight end or wide receiver further downfield. A pass-option play is another name for it.

Why is It Called Play-Action?

The quarterback delays the pass until a few seconds after the snap, giving the play-action its name. When using a play-action pass, the passer won’t release the ball until the offensive line has made contact with the defense and a running back has imitated rushing upfield with the ball.

This scenario means that a “play-action pass” occurs after the play’s action has already started.

Who Invented the Play-Action Play?

The play-action pass is one of the oldest plays in American football, making it difficult to pinpoint who created it.

Knute Rockne, the legendary Notre Dame coach from the 1930s, made the observation that passes plays are more successful when the quarterback and receivers can conceal the result of the play for as long as possible. He claimed that pretending to block a run play by the offensive linemen was the best strategy for prolonging the play.

After football’s forward pass was made legal, the play-action pass most likely gained popularity. In 1906, the game underwent this revolutionary change. Football teams and coaches have adapted the forward pass to become one of the most efficient tactics in the game in less than 25 years.

what is play-action in football

Play-Action: Roles of Each Position

If the play-action pass were a movie, the director, main actor, and supporting actor would all be present. QB would serve as the play’s director. He has a responsibility to understand the setup for play action scenes as well as what the intended outcome is.

In this plan, the running back (RB) is the main player. Even if it only results in a momentary lapse in defense, it is his responsibility to sell the fake as the best option and give the impression that he is in possession of the ball.

The supporting actor comes last. The lead actor and director’s decisions will most directly affect this player’s performance.

The supporting actor, who is typically a wide receiver or tight end, will pretend to be blocking or uninvolved in the play to demonstrate to the player who is in charge of him that they must respond to the actions of the other players.

When a defensive player makes a bad read, the offense has a chance to make a big play at that precise moment.

Why Does Play-Action Work?

The playbooks of every football team in the nation include play-action concepts. The success of other plays or plays that the offense employs more frequently leads to the development of play-action concepts.

Teams from the high school level to the pros analyze the tendencies of their opponents in today’s technologically advanced world. The offense can run play-action plays that show one thing while taking advantage of the defense’s weakness(es) by studying opponents’ tendencies.

That is what makes the play-action pass so powerful and challenging for defensive players to cover.

It can be very discouraging and devastating to think that you understand why this offense runs a particular play in a particular situation 73% of the time.

Can You Score More Points With a Play-Action?

While scoring a touchdown from a play-action does not increase the number of points your team will score, performing a play-action will increase your expected points and yards per attempt.

They often create an unfair advantage for the offense if the defense isn’t anticipating it, especially on early downs.

what is play-action in football

Though play-action passes are good for drawing defenders up to the line of scrimmage, if a quarterback fakes it poorly or doesn’t draw in all of the defenders, there could be a big hole in the offensive line for a defender to run through and get an easy interception or sack.

If a wide receiver runs his route too slowly after eluding a defender, the timing of the play will be ruined and the defender will have a chance to make a play on the football.

What Not to Do When Running a Play-Action Pass?

In order to get another offensive player past the defenders while the quarterback fakes a handoff, which is typically done for a quick pass play. The defense’s aggressiveness can be used against them by using a play-action pass.

The secret to running a successful play-action pass is ensuring that all of your receivers run precise routes and return to the quarterback at the ideal moment. Any offense can suffer greatly from a quarterback’s errant pass, especially if it is intercepted.

Here are some examples of what not to do when running a play-action pass:

  • Don’t stop your feet when faking a handoff.
  • Don’t step forward with the wrong foot while passing, which will make you throw off balance and be easy to recognize as a fake.
  • Keep your eyes on the defense at all times and know where each of your receivers is supposed to be.
  • Make sure that your passing routes and formations match up with the rest of your plays to stay balanced.
  • Don’t drop back too far, or else you’ll give away more of a fake than needed, and it will be even easier for defenders to stop the pass play.
  • Don’t stare at the receiver as they’re running their route. Instead, keep your eyes on the defense so you’ll know how to react when the ball is snapped.

You snap the ball, and it flies through one gap between the linemen for a respectable gain. It seems as though you’ve set up a play-action pass where the receiver will breeze past the defense for a simple completion, but you throw the ball to the running back or wide receiver who is not expecting it. Your entire team will be let down by this, and the defense will gain even more ground. So, don’t do that!

Conclusion About Play-Action Passing in Football

To deceive the defense into believing that the offense will run the ball, the play-action play begins with a fake handoff to a running back. Rather, the quarterback retreats and throws to a waiting receiver.

To trick the defense, you must not only act out play action passes, but also read the defense, maintain composure for the duration of the play, and complete the pass.

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