In gridiron football, a lateral pass or lateral (officially backward pass in American football and onside pass in Canadian football) occurs when the ball carrier throws the football to a teammate in a direction parallel to or away from the opponents' goal line. A lateral pass is distinguished from a forward pass, in which the ball is thrown forward, towards the opposition's end zone. In a lateral pass the ball is not advanced, but unlike a forward pass a lateral may be attempted from anywhere on the field by any player to any player at any time.
While the forward pass is an invention of the North American games, the lateral and backward pass is also a part of rugby union and rugby league, where such passes are the norm. Compared to its use in rugby, laterals and backward passes are less common in North American football, due to a much greater focus on ball control in American football strategy; they are most commonly used by the quarterback, after taking the snap, to quickly transfer ("pitch") the ball a short distance to a nearby running back (or, rarely, wide receiver) on a rushing play. Laterals are also often seen as part of a last-minute desperation strategy or as part of a trick play. Examples of plays utilizing the lateral pass are the toss, flea flicker, hook and lateral, and buck-lateral.
While a forward pass may only be thrown once per down by the team on offense from within or behind the neutral zone, there are no restrictions on the use of lateral passes; any player legally carrying the ball may throw a lateral pass from any position on the field at any time, any player may receive such a pass, and any number of lateral passes may be thrown on a single play.Additionally, a player receiving a lateral pass may throw a forward pass if he is still behind the neutral zone, subject to the forward pass rules. A lateral is the only type of pass that can be legally thrown following a change of possession during a play.
Unlike a forward pass, if a backward pass hits the ground or an official, play continues and, as with a fumble, a backward pass that has hit the ground may be recovered and advanced by either team.Backward passes can also be intercepted. A lateral may be underhand or overhand as long as the ball is not advanced in the pass.
A ball that is passed exactly sideways is considered a backwards pass. If it hits the ground, the person throwing or "pitching" the lateral pass will be subjected to the fumble designation in the statistics in the NFL, even if the ball is dropped or muffed by a teammate, although in college football this can be credited to whichever player the statistician feels is most responsible.If the ball hits the ground after travelling even slightly forward, however, it is then incomplete instead of a fumble.
The snap is legally considered to be a backward pass,although a blown snap is not scored as a fumble.
The oxymoron "forward lateral" is used to describe an attempted "lateral" (backward pass) that actually goes forward. In most cases, it is illegal.
A variant, the hook and lateral, where a forward pass is immediately passed backward to a second receiver to fool the defense, is used on occasion.
The lateral pass rule, or rather the lack of restrictions contained therein, has given rise to some of the most memorable and incredible plays in football history. Both collegiate and NFL football have certain examples of football lore which involve laterals.
One famous college play involving the backward passes is simply known as The Play. In the 1982 Big Game between Stanford and California, with four seconds left and trailing by one point, Cal ran the ball back on a kickoff all the way for the walk-off touchdown using five backward passes, eventually running through the Stanford Band, who had already taken the field (believing the game was over after Stanford players appeared to have tackled a Cal ball-carrier). The game remains controversial because of Stanford's contention that the Cal player's knee was down before he passed the ball during the third lateral and that the fifth lateral was an illegal forward pass.
A well-known and controversial NFL lateral pass occurred during the Music City Miracle play at the end of the 2000 playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills. The play was a true lateral (the ball did not move forward or backward in the pass), but the receiver was a step ahead of the passer and reached back to catch the ball, so it gave the appearance of an illegal forward pass.
Another well known backward pass in the NFL was the River City Relay in a game between the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 21, 2003. With time running out, the Saints threw backward passes and brought the ball down the length of the field for a touchdown. However, kicker John Carney missed the extra point, which would have tied the game, so the Saints lost by one point, 20–19.
Another well known play was executed in a college football game by Presbyterian against Wake Forest in 2010. In this trick play, three lateral pass rules were used in combination. First the quarterback passed the ball sideways while intentionally bouncing the ball on the ground (a so-called "fake fumble pass"). The pass-receiver faked the end of the play, suggesting that it was an incomplete pass, but then passed the ball forward to a wide-receiver, who successfully ran for a touchdown.Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe described the play "as well executed as anything I’ve ever seen".
In a Division III college football game on October 27, 2007, Trinity University was trailing by two points with two seconds left in a game against conference rival Millsaps College. Starting from their own 39-yard line, Trinity called a play for a short pass across the middle. The receiver pitched the ball backward, with a sequence of additional backward passes as players were in danger of being tackled. The "Mississippi Miracle" ultimately included 15 backward passes as it covered 61 yards for the walk-off touchdown.
On October 31, 2015, the Miami Hurricanes threw eight lateral passes over the course of 45 seconds to score a touchdown and upset the 22nd-ranked Duke Blue Devils 30–27. The play stirred controversy amid a number of missed calls by the Atlantic Coast Conference officiating crew.
On December 9, 2018, the Miami Dolphins pulled off the only walk-off touchdown to involve multiple lateral passes in NFL history, completing two laterals for a 69-yard touchdown to beat the New England Patriots 34–33.
Canadian football is a sport played in Canada in which two teams of 12 players each compete for territorial control of a field of play 110 yards (101 m) long and 65 yards (59 m) wide attempting to advance a pointed oval-shaped ball into the opposing team's scoring area.
In gridiron football, not all players on offense are entitled to receive a forward pass. Only an eligible pass receiver may legally catch a forward pass, and only an eligible receiver may advance beyond the neutral zone if a forward pass crosses into the neutral zone. If the pass is received by a non-eligible receiver, it is "illegal touching". If an ineligible receiver is beyond the neutral zone when a forward pass crossing the neutral zone is thrown, a foul of "ineligible receiver downfield" is called. Each league has slightly different rules regarding who is considered an eligible receiver.
In several forms of football a forward pass is a throwing of the ball in the direction that the offensive team is trying to move, towards the defensive team's goal line. The forward pass is one of the main distinguishers between gridiron football in which the play is legal and widespread, and rugby football from which the North American games evolved, in which the play is illegal.
A snap is the backwards passing of the ball in gridiron football at the start of play from scrimmage.
A fumble in gridiron football occurs when a player who has possession and control of the ball loses it before being downed (tackled), scoring, or going out of bounds. By rule, it is any act other than passing, kicking, punting, or successful handing that results in loss of player possession. A fumble may be forced by a defensive player who either grabs or punches the ball or butts the ball with his helmet. A fumbled ball may be recovered and advanced by either team. It is one of three events that can cause a turnover, where possession of the ball can change during play.
In ball-playing competitive team sports, an interception or pick is a move by a player involving a pass of the ball—whether by foot or hand, depending on the rules of the sport—in which the ball is intended for a player of the same team but caught by a player of the team on defense, who thereby usually gains possession of the ball for their team. It is commonly seen in football, including American and Canadian football, as well as association football, rugby league, rugby union, Australian rules football and Gaelic football, as well as any sport by which a loose object is passed between players toward a goal. In basketball, a pick is called a steal.
A screen pass is a play in gridiron football consisting of a short pass to a receiver who is protected by a screen of blockers. During a screen pass, a number of things happen concurrently in order to fool the defense into thinking a long pass is being thrown, when in fact the pass is merely a short one, just beyond the defensive linemen. Screens are usually deployed against aggressive defenses that rush the passer. Because screens invite the defense to rush the quarterback, they are designed to leave fewer defensemen behind the rushers to stop the play.
Game play in American football consists of a series of downs, individual plays of short duration, outside of which the ball is dead or not in play. These can be plays from scrimmage – passes, runs, punts, or field goal attempts – or free kicks such as kickoffs and fair catch kicks. Substitutions can be made between downs, which allows for a great deal of specialization as coaches choose the players best suited for each particular situation. During a play, each team should have no more than 11 players on the field, and each of them has specific tasks assigned for that specific play.
The hook and lateral is a trick play in American, Canadian football & indoor American football, often colloquially called the hook and ladder play.
The Play was a last-second kickoff return during a college football game between the Stanford Cardinal and California Golden Bears on Saturday, November 20, 1982. Given the circumstances and rivalry, the wild game that preceded it, the very unusual way in which The Play unfolded, and its lingering aftermath on players and fans, it is recognized as one of the most memorable plays in college football history and among the most memorable in American sports.
A formation in football refers to the position players line up in before the start of a down. There are both offensive and defensive formations and there are many formations in both categories. Sometimes, formations are referred to as packages.
In American football, the fumblerooski is a trick play in which the football is intentionally and stealthily placed on the ground (fumbled) by an offensive player, usually the quarterback. The offensive team then attempts to distract and confuse the defense by pretending that a ball carrier is running in one direction while another offensive player retrieves the ball from the turf and runs in a different direction, hoping to gain significant yardage before the defense realizes which player is actually carrying the football.
A trick play, also known as a gadget play, gimmick play or trickeration, is a play in gridiron football that uses deception and unorthodox tactics to fool the opposing team. A trick play is often risky, offering the potential for a large gain or a touchdown if it is successful, but with the chance of a significant loss of yards or a turnover if not. Trick plays are rarely used not only because of the riskiness, but also to maintain the element of surprise for when they are used.
A comparison between American football and rugby league is possible because of their shared origins and similar game concepts. Rugby league is arguably the most similar sport to American football after Canadian football: both sports involve the concept of a limited number of downs/tackles and scoring touchdowns/tries takes clear precedence over goal-kicking.
In American football a play is a close to the ground "plan of action" or "strategy" used to move the ball down the field. A play begins at either the snap from the center or at kickoff. Most commonly plays occur at the snap during a down. These plays range from basic to very intricate. Football players keep a record of these plays in their playbook.
The 2007 Trinity vs. Millsaps football game is best known for the memorable play that occurred in the game's last two seconds. On October 27, 2007, the NCAA Division III 19th-ranked Trinity University Tigers threw 15 lateral passes and scored a 61-yard touchdown to win a game against the 24th-ranked Millsaps College Majors as time expired in the game. Media sources called the play the "Mississippi Miracle" or "Lateralpalooza." ESPN and other sources said the play was probably "the longest play in college football history" in terms of how much time the play took to complete. On January 7, 2008, the final play of the game was named the Pontiac Game Changing performance of the year.
The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.
In gridiron football, roughing the passer is a foul in which a defensive player makes illegal contact with an offensive player after the latter has thrown a forward pass. The penalty is 10 or 15 yards, depending on the league, and an automatic first down for the offense. Defenders are allowed to contact a player attempting a forward pass while he still has possession of the ball ; however, once the ball is released, defenders are not allowed to make contact with the quarterback unless carried to do so by momentum. Judgment over whether contact following release was the result of a violation or momentum is made by the referee on a case-by-case basis.
The Miracle in Motown was the final play of an American football game between the NFC North divisional rivals Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions on Thursday, December 3, 2015. The game, which was broadcast on television nationally on Thursday Night Football, was played at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan during the 2015 NFL season. On the final play of regulation, with no time remaining on the game clock, Packers quarterback (QB) Aaron Rodgers threw a 61-yard (56 m) Hail Mary pass into the end-zone that was caught by tight end (TE) Richard Rodgers for the game-winning touchdown after defensive end (DE) Devin Taylor face masked Rodgers which resulted in a one additional play.