There are two ways to offensively move the ball in football: on the ground using a rushing play or in the air with a quarterback initiating a passing play. As echoes of Thanksgiving’s “pass the potatoes… no, the other potatoes… no, the sweet potatoes” dance in my head, here are a few passing plays dramatically interpreted by my relatives and featuring hors d’oeuvres and team spirit (that’s the UCLA fight song playing in the background, in honor of my mother, sister and step brother’s poor Bruins).
Play Action Pass
This is a deception play. The quarterback fakes a hand-off to a running back to draw the opposing team’s defenders from pass coverage downfield to run coverage, which is closer to the line of scrimmage. If successful, it will leave a receiver open downfield and able to catch the pass from the QB.
This is also a deception play, opposite in execution to the play action pass. A quarterback drops back into the pocket and sets up to throw a long downfield pass. The QB’s offensive line aides the deception by dropping back into pass protection for a few beats, but then they will release their defenders and block the route (set up a screen) for a running back, to whom the QB will throw a short pass.
The checkdown is a short pass utilized when all of a quarterback’s receivers downfield are blocked by defenders from the opposing team. Under pressure from blitzing defenders, the QB will throw a short pass, usually to a running back, to prevent a sack. The checkdown requires improvisation and inventive decision making by the quarterback in order to make the completion. It is a “when all else fails” maneuver to keep the ball in play. A quarterback’s only other option to prevent a sack would be to “throw the ball away”, passing the ball out of bounds to stop the clock and prevent a loss of yardage.
The hail mary is a long downfield pass, the stuff of which dreams and Varsity Blues are made. Take this perfect example from Sunday, featuring the first touchdown pass of backup QB Tyler Palko’s career.
You can see an example of that here.