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Halfback option play

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Title: Halfback option play  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Flea flicker (American football), Reverse (American football), Trick play, American football plays, WikiProject College football/Notability
Collection: American Football Plays
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Halfback option play

The halfback option play is an unorthodox play in American and Canadian football. It resembles a normal running play, but the running back has the option to throw a pass to another eligible receiver before crossing the line of scrimmage.

The key to the play is fooling the defensive players, primarily the defensive backs. If the linebackers and/or the defensive line are fooled and believe the ball carrier is attempting a run, they will pursue the runner, abandoning their pass defense responsibilities and thereby leaving pass receivers uncovered. Of course, if the defensive backs are not fooled, the running back carrying the ball does have the option to run instead of risking an incomplete pass or an interception. This play is not as popular as it once was as defensive players are expected to cover receivers until the football crosses the line of scrimmage on running plays.

The running play that halfback options usually resemble is a sweep play. Sometimes the quarterback will run out of the backfield and become a receiving option for the running back. This can be effective because the quarterback usually does very little after handing off or pitching the ball to the running back on most plays, and the defense might not be expecting him to be used as an active receiver. In the National Football League, if the quarterback starts the play under center, then he is ineligible as a receiver; the quarterback must start from the shotgun to receive a pass. (However, in other leagues, the person under the snapper is an eligible receiver, and this restriction does not apply.)

The halfback option play usually has limited success and is not commonly used, especially in the NFL. The play almost completely relies on the element of surprise and better coaching has resulted in defensive backs being instructed to stay in coverage until the running back with the ball crosses the line of scrimmage. Another reason is that the passing ability of most running backs is usually poor in relation to the passing ability of a quarterback. However, certain teams and players do successfully run the option one to a few times a season; used sparingly it can be effective to make a game-changing play. Only once in modern professional football history has a halfback thrown more than one touchdown in a game: utility player Gene Mingo of the Denver Broncos threw two touchdowns as a halfback in an American Football League game against the Buffalo Bills in 1961.

The halfback option play is an integral part of the wildcat offense, which involves the halfback receiving a direct snap.

Notable instances

There have been many notable cases where the halfback option pass has been used with great success.

In Super Bowl XII, Dallas Cowboys running back Robert Newhouse threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Golden Richards, versus the Denver Broncos, becoming the first running back to throw a touchdown pass in Super Bowl History. QB Roger Staubach took the snap and pitched the ball to Newhouse who ran left, faking a sweep, before pulling up and throwing an absolutely perfect pass to an almost perfectly covered Richards.[2] This basically sealed the game for Dallas, and they went on to win 27-10.

  • In Super Bowl XXII, Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway caught a 23-yard pass from halfback Steve Sewell on the halfback option play, becoming the first quarterback ever to catch a pass in the Super Bowl.
  • In Super Bowl XL, Steelers wide receiver and former Indiana University quarterback Antwaan Randle El threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward, after taking the hand-off from tailback Willie Parker. He is the only wide receiver to throw a touchdown pass in Super Bowl history. The catch rounded-off a Super Bowl MVP performance for Hines Ward.
  • As of the end of the 2007 season, San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson has successfully thrown seven touchdowns on option passes in eleven attempts.

References

  1. ^ Oberheide.org Hargiss's Option Play
  2. ^ http://www.nfl.com/superbowl/history/boxscore/sbxii
  3. ^ Bell, Jarrett. Odd formations could become latest fad across NFL. USA Today. 24 September 2008.
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