What Is Play Action In Football

Play-action passing is a kind of play used in American football that is meant to seem like a running play.

A play-action fake is a deceptive play that may be used to fool the defense, and many of the best offenses in football employ this play.

Play-action fakes are designed to throw off the defender. It is intended to seem like a running play, but instead, a pass; most of the time, a deep pass is delivered to the receiver.

The first step is when the quarterback takes the snap, which may happen either under the center or from the shotgun configuration. The offensive linemen block the defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage as soon as the ball is snapped.

At the same moment, the quarterback makes it seem as if he is handing the ball off to the running back, but instead, he sends the ball downfield to either a wide receiver or a tight end.

A pass option play is another common name for this play.

In this article, get more details about what is play action in football is and how it works.

Things about Play Action In Football

What Is Play Action In Football

The play-action play begins with a sham handoff to a running back to give the impression to the defensive players that the offense intends to run the ball. Instead, the quarterback takes a few steps back and throws the ball to an open receiver.

This effective throw does not always result in huge plays for large gains on the field, but teams have a crucial tool in their playbooks that may assure long-term success throughout a game.

Teams will use play-action to keep the opposition guessing. The play activity on the field may take many different shapes, depending on the scheme the coach has devised.

It is an integral part of any offense and enables the offense to remain one step ahead of the defense.

Defensive units must be prepared to stop both the run and the throw. The run-to-pass ratio used by good coaches will normally be in the range of 60 to 40 percent.

Teams who pass the ball more often than they run will frequently provide hints as to what each play will be.

For instance, if the offense is mostly passing the ball and only running 20% of the time, the defensive unit will nearly always shift its linebackers and defensive backs into pass coverage.

The defensive lineman may take a more aggressive approach to committing to the pass, and the defense won’t have to think as much as it would otherwise.

Teams with a 60/40 run-to-pass ratio, or even a 50/50 split, force the defense to adjust their strategy and approach each down as if it were a new down.

Play-acting is at its most productive in situations like these.


  • Play-action throws are better in that they are less risky,
  • They are more effective, they result in larger plays,
  • They lead to more yards after the catch,
  • There does not seem to be any cost for deploying more of them.
  • On top of everything else, a good running game or even a quarterback is not necessary to run them to be successful.


The possibility of being hurt is a disadvantage of play actions. If the defensive players rush while the quarterback is still in possession of the ball, this might result in some uncomfortable collisions between the quarterback and the defensive players.

Play-action has already been the cause of several injuries spanning multiple seasons in the National Football League.

Injury to the ankle and head trauma are among the most frequent.

Why Is It Called Play Action?

The quarterback usually waits a few seconds after the “snap” before throwing the ball, where the term “play-action” comes from.

When using a play-action pass, the quarterback will wait to throw the ball until after the offensive line has made contact with the defensive line and a running back has acted as if he is rushing upfield with the ball.

After the play’s action begins, this is called a “play-action pass.”

How Many Points Can You Score On A Play Action Play?

What Is Play Action In Football

A play-action play may have several possible outcomes, all of which are determined by the effectiveness of the original hoax.

It is probable that the quarterback will successfully complete a short throw to either a wide receiver or a tight end, which will result in a first down and allow the offense to continue moving the ball.

According to the statistics, this football play has a high chance of success for making quick gains of up to eight yards.

On the other hand, a play-action fake may be so convincing at times that it convinces the defense to leave the receivers wide open.

When faced with this scenario, a quarterback has free latitude to make whatever pass they see fit to an eligible receiver with an unobstructed view of the end zone.

A touchdown that results in six points scored by the offense is the ideal conceivable outcome for a play that utilizes play action.

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What Makes A Play Action Pass More Successful?

What Is Play Action In Football

It is essential to remember that the number of rushing plays that have already taken place in the game before attempting a fake pass directly affects the likelihood of the play-action passing attempt being successful.

If the defensive side has seen some success in stopping the run game of the offensive team, they will be better prepared to deal with the possibility of a pass rush.

If the defense overcommits, there is an opportunity for the offensive to capitalize on the defense’s expensive error.

When they expect a play involving play action, some quarterbacks find it more comfortable to take the snap from the shotgun position.

Once the snap has been taken and the fake handoff has been executed, the quarterback must drop back into the pocket to throw the ball.

The quarterback may be required to turn their back to the defense to complete the dropback if they get the snap when they are under center.

They can steer clear of this danger and keep an eye on how the play develops because they accept the snap in the backfield.

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When Did The First Play Action Play Happen?

What Is Play Action In Football

The play-action throw was introduced to most football fans for the first time during the 1940 NFL Championship.

In that game, the Bears employed it as part of their legendary T-formation attack, which allowed them to cruise to a 73-0 win. Most football fans would have referred to it as a fake play.

Since those humble beginnings, the popularity of the play-action play has gone from strength to strength. Some coaches center their whole team’s offensive strategies around a single play.

There is a widespread belief among football supporters that Tom Brady, who was the quarterback for the Patriots at the time, is among the very finest quarterbacks who can run the play.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Is The Purpose Of Play-Action?

Play action has the potential to be one of the most effective means of penetrating a defense. Play action forces defenders to engage in combat, regardless of their defensive formation (man or zone).

After a convincing fake, defenders often come back too late to locate their pass responsibility, which provides the offense with a greater opportunity for huge plays.

2. Why Is Play-Action Effective?

One of the reasons why play-action may have such a significant influence is because the mechanics of how play-action works are linked up with the depth of the target.

When linebackers come up to defend against the run, it puts them in the throwing path for shorter throws.

It is advantageous for the passing team. Consequently, greater emphasis is placed on the intermediate and deep routes.

3. How Do You Identify A Play-Action?

The offensive line’s primary objective while acting is to give the impression that the play is a run play. A shot will be taken, and the lineman will make contact.

On the other hand, they won’t move down the field.

Either they will shoot out one yard and attempt to make contact or kick step backward like they usually would after receiving a ball.

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