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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.)[citation needed]

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[edit]

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.


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halfback_option_play — Please support Wikipedia.
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124 news items

Daily Item

Daily Item
Mon, 18 Jan 2016 20:07:30 -0800

Starting from its own nine with two minutes left in the half and a 20-12 lead, Lynnfield came out throwing with a halfback option play. Knee's pass was intended for wide receiver Matt Kramich, but it was intercepted by McCarthy who returned it 34 yards ...
Fri, 06 Nov 2015 10:33:45 -0800

LaDainian Tomlinson threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates on a halfback option play in that game. In 2011, Rivers connected on 21 of 31 passes for 280 yards with two TDs, two interceptions and a 90.8 passer rating in a 31-20 loss to the Bears ...


Thu, 03 Dec 2015 15:03:45 -0800

... 14-0 deficit as Hall of Fame RB Marcus Allen fell on a fumble in the end zone to tie the game in the 4th quarter, and K Chris Bahr's extra point gave the Raiders a 21-20 win. Allen also threw a 21-yard TD pass on a halfback option play to WR Dokie ...
Marin Independent Journal
Sun, 27 Sep 2015 07:15:00 -0700

MC added a fourth touchdown on a halfback-option play, with Will Buckstaff finding Jake Laudenslager for a 40-yard touchdown. Peterson finished the day with 275 rushing yards. His output, combined with a stingy defense, was more than enough to produce ...

Naples Herald

Naples Herald
Thu, 31 Dec 2015 07:00:00 -0800

The ole halfback option play. Cowboys' running back and future NFL head coach, Dan Reeves, throws a 50 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver, Lance Rentzel. Dallas takes a three point lead to begin the final quarter of icy, numbing football. But it was ...

Napa Valley Register

Napa Valley Register
Sat, 21 Nov 2015 01:02:08 -0800

The Indians scored first, as Austin Spinelli threw a 27-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option play to Sherman Forbes early in the first quarter. Napa scored in just two plays after a St. Mary's fumble on the Rams' 38-yard line. But Napa had trouble ...

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Fri, 16 Oct 2015 07:35:50 -0700

Last week, three Thomas Dale players threw for a combined 271 yards, the second most in a Thomas Dale game, according to the coaching staff. Matt Lawton threw for 178 yards, Gabe McCollin for 57 and Max Oxendine for 36. That nearly topped the record ...

Morgan Hill Times

Morgan Hill Times
Sun, 04 Oct 2015 10:49:42 -0700

Sobrato turned the ball over on downs after an incomplete pass on a halfback option play. The Bulldogs will now have a week to get ready for Silver Creek, who is coming off a dramatic loss to Lincoln on Friday. The Raiders were up 21-20 before a field ...

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