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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 are fooled and believe a the ball carrier is attempting a run, they will pursue the runner, abandoning their passing situation responsibilities 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 back 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 gamebreaking 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 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.


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

Thu, 08 Oct 2015 18:37:49 -0700

Kiski Area used a halfback-option play last week with Jon Bracy zipping an 80-yard scoring pass to Cam Turner to give the Cavaliers a 16-7 lead on the way to a 23-14 upset over Plum. Earlier this season, Apollo-Ridge's Brown threw a 90-yard touchdown ...

Morgan Hill Times

Morgan Hill Times
Sun, 04 Oct 2015 10:48:03 -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 ...
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 ...
The Register Star
Thu, 10 Sep 2015 21:06:57 -0700

1973: Tom Drahushuk passed for 106 yards and one touchdown and Larry Gambacorta and Dave Jefferson combined for 184 yards rushing as the Columbia County Vikings defeated the New York Titans 27-20 in a nonleague semi-pro football game.


Wed, 29 Apr 2015 09:05:56 -0700

The following game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sayers turned a screen pass into an 80-yard score and threw for a touchdown on a halfback option play. Sayers continued to display his versatility the following week with one of his four touchdowns ...


Fri, 30 Jan 2015 10:15:57 -0800

The first, which came with the game tied 3-3 in the first quarter, saw Perry tackled for a loss of a yard on a halfback option play from the New England Patriots' 5-yard line. Perry would redeem himself in the third quarter, however, when he barreled ...

News & Observer

News & Observer
Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:00:36 -0800

Senior receiver Raekwon Britton caught a 47-yard touchdown pass on the first Trojan possession and later threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Jarvin Holder on a halfback option play at the end of the first half to push Garner's lead to 28-0. “It was ...

Bleacher Report

Bleacher Report
Thu, 11 Dec 2014 22:09:50 -0800

There's nothing like an NFL game played in the snow. It can turn even a contest between two bad teams into an entertaining spectacle. With the Green Bay Packers heading to western New York to take on the Buffalo Bills this weekend, two of the league's ...

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