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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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17 news items

Highlands Today

Highlands Today
Sat, 18 Oct 2014 22:03:45 -0700

SEBRING — After being shut-out by Winter Haven in each of the last two seasons, the Sebring Blue Streaks didn't waste any time letting the Blue Devils know that Friday's game at Firemen's Field was going to be a different story. On Sebring's first ...
Inside Bay Area
Fri, 17 Oct 2014 23:33:45 -0700

FREMONT -- J.R. Diala passed for 199 yards with two touchdowns and ran two more scores as American ran away from Irvington in a Mission Valley Athletic League matchup at Tak Fudenna Stadium. Diala, a junior, hit Anthony Wellington for a 14-yard ...
Wicked Local Abington
Wed, 15 Oct 2014 06:34:54 -0700

Abington countered when running back Shawn Donovan (11 carries for 60 yards) executed a perfect halfback option play to Aidan Cawley (3 receptions for 56 yards) for an 11-yard touchdown. Neither team was able to convert the PAT. "More often than not, ...
Pekin Daily Times
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 19:15:00 -0700

Still, a Raiders' safety and a 38-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Lovell to Jake McCartney on a halfback option play put East Peoria (3-3, 1-3) on top again 14-12 in the third period. By Times staff. Pekin Daily Times. By Times staff. Posted Oct. 5 ...
The Patriot Ledger
Fri, 26 Sep 2014 20:20:49 -0700

Adam Benson's 35-yard punt return in the third quarter set up Cohasset's go-ahead score as Nick Hall hit Brett Dooley with an 18-yard TD pass off a halfback option play. That made it 12-6. Hall's 45-yard punt return later in the quarter set up Gillis ...
News 13 Orlando
Fri, 26 Sep 2014 20:45:00 -0700

... the lead, but two drives ended with a fumble and a Marquis Johnson sack on fourth down. The Bears iced the win with 4:33 when, on third down, Nelson threw the ball on a reverse halfback option play and found Michael Siciliano on a 35-yard socring ...
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 ...

Wilkes Journal Patriot

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Mon, 06 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0700

Levi Ray got his first career pass completion with a 23-yard throw on a halfback option play. Jared Wood made the catch while falling down…. The scoring runs by Nance and Ward are the two longest in Adkins' tenure as coach. East Wilkes has had three ...

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