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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 a wide receiver or tight end before crossing the line of scrimmage.

The key to the play is fooling the defensive players, primarily the defensive backs. If the defensive backs think it is just a normal running play, they will first immediately run upfield to try to tackle the running back, leaving the wide receivers wide open to catch a pass. 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.

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. One reason is that defensive backs are usually instructed to stay in coverage until the running back with the ball crosses the line of scrimmage, to prevent a successful halfback option play. Another reason is that the passing ability of most running backs is usually poor in relation to the passing ability of a quarterback. Thus, passes from the halfback are often poorly thrown, resulting in incompletions or interceptions. 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 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.


  1. ^ Oberheide.org Hargiss's Option Play
  2. ^ Bell, Jarrett. Odd formations could become latest fad across NFL. USA Today. 24 September 2008.

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

News & Observer

News & Observer
Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:57:05 -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 ...

Press of Atlantic City

Press of Atlantic City
Thu, 27 Nov 2014 17:16:59 -0800

Millville High School's Ezekiel Ennis races upfield against the Fighting Clan at Gittone Memorial Field in Vineland on Thursday. Ennis ran twice for 91 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown, to help the Thunderbolts win 44-40. Vineland leads the series ...

Woburn Daily Times

Woburn Daily Times
Tue, 18 Nov 2014 09:03:45 -0800

The Red Devils went for the two-point conversion and the lead by running a halfback option play to Shane O'Halloran, but his pass into the end zone was knocked down by a defensive back to prevent Burlington from taking the lead. The ensuing onside kick ...


Fri, 07 Nov 2014 21:37:07 -0800

Schroeder was confident the halfback option play would work. "He (Schmitz) used to play quarterback," the coach said. "That was huge to get something off of that drive," Bauer said. Victory secured late. Caledonia held an eight-point lead in the fourth ...
Tue, 22 Jul 2014 22:18:12 -0700

"The thing I remember most is for that halfback option play we ran against Denver," former Cowboys player personnel director Gil Brandt said. "We ran it going left, and it's a lot harder to go left than right. During the week they must've practiced the ...
Buffalo News
Sat, 25 Oct 2014 09:09:59 -0700

Castronova was sensational Friday as he passed for 307 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 68 yards and two scores and caught the game's first TD on a 5-yard halfback option play. The senior's efforts weren't enough to ward off the Bulldogs. “You have ...
Wicked Local Cohasset
Thu, 18 Sep 2014 08:01:12 -0700

In last week's loss to Scituate, on the first play from scrimmage, Cohasset's Brett Dooley took a pitch from quarterback Danny Axelson and hit Mike Lund with a 63-yard scoring pass on a halfback option play. Henry Butenschoen's PAT made it 7-0 Cohasset.
The Patriot-News
Fri, 26 Sep 2014 21:18:10 -0700

Connor Maxwell had a pair of TD runs — including a 66-yard jaunt — and a TD catch, and he tossed a TD pass on a halfback option play for the Indians, who piled up 307 rushing yards while holding Columbia to 135 total yards. Connor Ness added a TD run ...

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