What Is A Play Action Play In Football?

American football is arguably the most popular sport in the United States. The game attracts a lot of viewers live and on TV and this is not a surprise. 

Regardless, as a fan of the American Football game, when you watch a game in the stadium or on TV, there are instances where you won’t be able to identify the specific player in possession of the ball at a point in time.

In this instance, it looks like one of the players has the ball but passes it and the next person in possession of the ball cannot be identified by those watching the game. 


Even the TV cameras are sometimes caught out in this scenario and instead follow the wrong player who appears to have the ball but is not. 

In American Football, this is a tricky play employed by players on the field and it is referred to as play action. We will be throwing more light on this concept of the game in this article. Read on to understand how it works and what it entails.

What Is A Play Action Pass In Football?

A play-action pass is a pass that is designed to resemble a running play and it usually starts with the quarterback. It begins with the quarterback receiving a snap from the under center or shotgun formation. 


What ensues after the snap is that the offensive blockers engage the defense at the line of scrimmage as they are blocking for a run play. 

Whilst this is going on, the quarterback pretends to be handing the ball to the running back but instead passes the ball to a wide receiver or tight end downfield.

Why Is iIt Called Play Action?

It is called play-action due to the fact that the quarterback opts to delay the pass for several seconds after the snap. When a play-action pass is being initiated, the passer of the ball won’t release it until the offensive line has engaged the defense and a running back has pretended to go upfield with the ball.


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Who Introduced The Play Action Play?

It can be recalled that Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne, in 1930, noted that pass plays have a higher success rate when the quarterback and receivers can hide the outcome of the play for as long as necessary.

He ended up writing that the most successful way of drawing out the play was for the offensive lineman to block a run play under pretext. 


The concept went on to attain more popularity in subsequent decades after the concept of the forward pass became acceptable in football. 

It can be recalled that the change which revolutionized the game of American Football took place in 1906. 

Regardless, it was adopted by football teams and coaches and ended up as one of the most productive and effective strategies of American Football.


How Did The First Play Action Play Come About?

The first play-action play in professional football took place in the NFL in 1940. This was in a game between the Washington Football Team and the Chicago Bears. 

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The latter adopted the strategy in their historic T-Formation offense to come out tops in a 73:0 victory in the game. The strategy has grown in popularity and usage since then as some coaches even choose to have their offenses rely on the play.


Talking about players who have excelled in this play, a significant number of football fans believe that Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to run the play.

How Many Points Can Be Gained Via Play Action Play?

The outcomes of a play-action play vary. Meanwhile, it is more likely that the quarterback will successfully pass to the wide receiver at a tight end. 

This results in a first down and allows the offensive drive to continue. Based on stats, the strategy is more successful for short gains of about 8 yards.


There are also cases where it can be faked to perfection that the defense falters and leave the receivers with lots of space to explore. 

Therefore, a quarterback would have the luxury of throwing a deep pass to any available receiver who has a clear shot at the end zone. The best result of this strategy is 6 points for the offense.

READ: What is a DB in Football?


Factors That Enhance The Success Of A Play Action Pass

Fans of the game ought to know that the success of a play-action passing is based on how many rushing players have taken place in the game before the fake one is attempted. 

If the offense has been having a field day, the defense will take note, adapt and easily identify the threat of a pass rush. However, if they over-commit in their quest to thwart the move, it would be to the advantage of the offensive team.


As previously noted, a play-action play begins with a fake pass to a running back with the intention of tricking the defensive players into thinking that the offense wants to run with the ball when this is not the case.


Once the pretext move is achieved, the quarterback drops back and passes the ball to an open receiver. 

It should be noted this move will not always end up in big plays that garner massive points. However, teams can leverage the strategy to ensure long-term success during a game, especially a very competitive one.

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