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.
A screen pass can be effective, but it can also be risky as it is rather easy for a defensive player, even a lineman, to intercept the pass if a defender gets between the quarterback and the intended receiver—something that only happens if the offensive line misses a block, the quarterback takes too long to throw or the defense overwhelms the offensive line. If the pass is intercepted, there are often few offensive players in front of the intercepting player, thus making it much easier for the intercepting team to earn a large return or to score a touchdown.
The frequent use of the screen pass is a distinguishing feature of the West Coast offense.
Screens come in many forms. A screen to a running back to either the strong or short side of the field in the flats is often just called a screen. Screens to wide receivers come in four forms: the bubble screen, middle screen, slot screen, and slip screen.
The bubble screen was essentially created by Don Read when he was head coach of the Montana Grizzlies, and Lou Holtz, head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, brought the play into prominence after calling Read and asking for the play. The bubble screen involves a receiver taking a step forward, then darting toward the quarterback to receive the ball while the offensive linemen release to clear a path for the receiver. The benefit of the bubble screen is that it works against either zone or man-to-man coverage. A downside is that it is dependent on proper timing; a zone blitz or defensive end dropping into coverage can disrupt the timing, and may result in the quarterback being sacked.
The middle screen is similar to the bubble screen, except that the receiver continues his route to the middle of the field. The linemen release up the middle of the field in front of the receiver.
A screen pass is sometimes executed using a shuttle pass throwing motion. To throw a shuttle pass the quarterback palms the football, and "shuttles" the pass directly forward to the receiver, usually with a backhand, underhand, or pushing motion. The term is derived from the similarity of the motion of the ball to a shuttle on a loom. When a designed play calls for the quarterback to use a shuttle pass forward to a receiver it is, by definition, also a screen pass. Because the pass appears to be a fumble if not completed, some defenses attempt to recover the ball as a turnover. This play was perfected by Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles in the early 2000s.
The Utah Pass is an overhand forward shuttle pass of the ballpopularized by the Utah Utes football team and Lee Grosscup. The play is commonly used by teams that use a spread offense.
The quarterback drops back as if he/she is going to pass the ball deep. The offensive line sets up in pass protection for usually one to two seconds, then releases and lets the defensive line go. The player receiving the screen pass moves behind the releasing linemen and waits for the ball. The outside receivers run clear-out routes in order to make a path for the screen coming behind them.
If run properly, the defensive backs will be run out of the play by the receivers, and the defensive line will penetrate too far to stop the short pass from being thrown. The only defenders left will be linebackers, which will be picked up by the "screen" of offensive linemen in front of the receiver—hence the name "screen pass".
There are a number of variation on screen pass plays.
The "conventional" screen to the running back (the action described above). This type of play is something of a scripted checkdown.
A tight end screen where the tight end takes the place of the running back in the above description.
The wide receiver screen (or "jailbreak screen"), where the linemen sprint out in front of the wide receiver catching the screen pass. However, the blocking may be as simple as one receiver blocking ahead of another. A wide receiver screen thrown to a receiver moving towards the quarterback, behind one or more blocking receivers, is also commonly called a "tunnel screen".
The "quarterback throwback" screen, where the quarterback will pitch to a running back or throw a short pass to a wide receiver, and run the opposite direction, with releasing linemen in front of him. The running back or wideout will then lateral, or "throw it back" to the quarterback, with offensive linemen leading him downfield. This is also known as a "Blitz Beater" or "Blitz" for short because it's almost always used against a blitz-heavy defense, also called that because when you can tell a blitz is coming, this is a common play called to counter it, and the overpursuing nature of the blitz leaves the running back, and then the quarterback wide open with the possibility of gaining huge chunks of yardage. The "quarterback throwback" has been known to force defenses to blitz less, because one successful play can turn into a quick touchdown with a mobile quarterback.
The "middle screen", which has the same type of action as a "conventional" screen, but the linemen remain in the middle of the field rather than releasing to either side.
A trick play variant of the screen pass involves an offensive tackle. The tackle must back up so that their hands are even with or behind the passer's and receives a lateral or backward pass. In a further evolution of trickery, the pass can be bounced (since any backward pass is a live ball) to fool the defense into thinking it is an incomplete forward pass; this trick can be achieved with either the offensive tackle or an eligible receiver. In turn, because a backward pass is a live ball even after hitting the ground, it increases the risk of a turnover if the intended receiver fails to catch the ball.
A running back (RB) is a member of the offensive backfield in gridiron football. The primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback to rush the ball, to line up as a receiver to catch the ball, and block. There are usually one or two running backs on the field for a given play, depending on the offensive formation. A running back may be a halfback, a wingback or a fullback. A running back will sometimes be called a "feature back" if he is the team's starting running back.
In gridiron football, a lineman is a player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage. The linemen of the team currently in possession of the ball are the offensive line, while linemen on the opposing team are the defensive line. A number of NFL rules specifically address restrictions and requirements for the offensive line, whose job is to help protect the quarterback from getting sacked for a loss, or worse, fumbling. The defensive line is covered by the same rules that apply to all defensive players. Linemen are usually the largest players on the field in both height and weight, since their positions usually require less running and more strength than skill positions.
A cornerback (CB) is a member of the defensive backfield or secondary in gridiron football. Cornerbacks cover receivers most of the time, but also blitz and defend against such offensive running plays as sweeps and reverses. They create turnovers through hard tackles, interceptions, and deflecting forward passes.
Linebacker (LB) is a playing position in gridiron football. Linebackers are members of the defensive team, and line up three to five yards behind the line of scrimmage and the defensive linemen. They are the "middle ground" of defenders, playing closer to the line of scrimmage than the defensive backs (secondary), but farther back than the defensive linemen.
In gridiron football, blitzing is a tactic used by the defense to disrupt pass attempts by the offense. During a blitz, a higher than usual number of defensive players will rush the opposing quarterback, in an attempt either to tackle him or force him to hurry his pass attempt.
Strategy forms a major part of American football. Both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent in order to win the game.
The 46 defense is an American football defensive formation, an eight men in the box defense, with six players along the line of scrimmage. There are two players at linebacker depth playing linebacker technique, and then three defensive backs. The 46 defense was originally developed and popularized with the Chicago Bears by their defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who later became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.
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, a zone blitz is a defensive tactic that sends additional players to rush the opposing team's quarterback, whilst also unexpectedly redirecting a supposed pass rushing player into pass coverage instead. This tactic also likely includes zone coverage.
The passing pocket, or the pocket, is a term used in American football to describe the area in the backfield created on a passing play where the offensive line forms a wall of protection around the quarterback. This allows him adequate time to find an open receiver and to pass the ball. The offensive line will drop back slightly, creating a U-shaped protected area for the quarterback to find an open receiver and pass the ball.
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 halfback (HB) is an offensive position in American football, whose duties involve lining up in the offensive backfield and carrying the ball on most rushing plays, i.e. a running back. When the principal ball carrier lines up deep in the backfield, and especially when that player is placed behind another player, as in the I formation, that player is instead referred to as a tailback.
In American football, the specific role that a player takes on the field is referred to as their "position". Under the modern rules of American football, both teams are allowed 11 players on the field at one time and have "unlimited free substitutions", meaning that they may change any number of players during any "dead ball" situation. This has resulted in the development of three task-specific "platoons" of players within any single team: the offense, the defense, and the so-called 'special teams'. Within these three separate "platoons", various positions exist depending on the jobs that the players are doing.
The flexbone formation is an offensive formation in American football that includes a quarterback, five offensive linemen, three running backs, and varying numbers of tight ends and wide receivers. The flexbone formation is a predominant turnover formation derived from the wishbone formation and it features a quarterback under center with a fullback lined up directly behind the quarterback. There are two smaller running backs called slotbacks aligned behind the line of scrimmage on each side of the offensive line. The slotbacks are sometimes incorrectly referred to as wingbacks. But in order to be a wingback, there must be a guard, tackle and tight end all on one side of the center on the line of scrimmage and then the wingback off the line of scrimmage.
The triple option is an American football play used to offer several ways to move the football forward on the field of play. The triple option is based on the option run, but uses three players who might run with the ball instead of the two used in a standard option run.
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 a playbook.
Zone coverage is a defense scheme in gridiron football used to protect against the pass.
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.
A route is a pattern or path that a receiver in gridiron football runs to get open for a forward pass. Routes are usually run by wide receivers, running backs and tight ends, but other positions can act as a receiver given the play.