While long drives are desirable because they wear an opponent down and chew up the clock, having the plays that get you closer to or into the end zone quickly are invaluable. In fact, most scoring drives do not happen without them.
It’s been proven in study after study that explosive or “chunk” plays increase the likelihood of scoring on any single drive.
A popular study was that of Mike Eayrs who was an analyst for the Green Bay Packers. Earys found explosive plays dramatically increased the odds that a drive would end in a score. A single explosive play (12-yard run or 16-yard pass) in a drive gives the offense a 40% chance of scoring points. Two explosives in a drive double the odds of scoring to 80%
With that in mind, it is an offense’s best interest to be taking some of those shots downfield and arguably the best way to do that is with play action.
Well-designed play-action draws defenders up and clears areas for the throw that gives an offense explosive plays. With that though, you must have a great technique in your run game like bend, bang, bounce, for your outside zone play.
Well-designed play actions are simple in terms of execution for the quarterback. Ideally, the run action with routes that attack the defender’s leaves receivers wide open. The best are those that help create and attack voids in the defense. Here are four of them.
#1) 89 Keep Pass Rails
This play-action pass from Jeff Herron, now an assistant at Tennessee Tech utilizes a nub tight end, which is increasingly popular when facing the Tite front, with a four verticals concept.
Coach Herron is a highly decorated high school head coach with a 312-54 record, winning five state championships and he is the only Georgia prep coach to win state championships with three different schools. Play action certainly has helped his teams to the top.
With some manipulation of formation coupled with run action, this play gives the quarterback multiple options to take a chunk out of the defense. He explains it here.
Source: Play Action & Homerun Balls
#2) Boundary vertical concept “Cincy”
Formation into the boundary seems like an unlikely way to create space, but the way the play is designed it opens up windows for a shot and provides a check-down as well.
Mark Solis, head coach at Olentangy HS (OH) likes it off of an inside zone look with the TE pausing for a second to create a multi-level stretch. Coach Solis also explains their “X” adjustment when the defense decides to get deeper and exchange routes. Both of these provide a shorter throw for the QB and thus a higher percentage opportunity for the offense.
He explains it in this video.
Source: Mark Solis-Play Action Pass
With 40 plus years of coaching experience at the high school and collegiate level, Russ Martin, head coach of Colorado Mesa, has seen it all. One of his favorite play-action passes incorporates a post with a deep crosser and dig that creates a scan read for the QB,
The post by a single receiver with a deep crosser coming across provides an opportunity against multiple coverages. It allows the offense to throw into the spaces being opened by the secondary trying to cover these routes. He especially likes it against man-free.
He explains the routes and progression here:
Source: Play Action Pass
Jeff Behrman is in his sixth season as head coach of the Union College football team and in a very short time has completely rebuilt the program into one of the top teams in the region and the country.
He built his offense on a strong zone running game with play action.
A key to hitting deep shots is to isolate an area so that the defender has no help and another defender is occupied in order to keep the area clear.
That’s exactly what Coach Behrman creates with his split zone concept which he calls “Punch.” It has options to take a big chunk of yardage against multiple coverages. He illustrates it in this video.
Regardless of the type of offense run, these are some solid concepts that can be utilized in any system with a little creativity (even as a part of your short yardage package!). They’ve proven successful for the coaches who shared them.
Finding ways to create explosive plays will pay big dividends for an offense. A good rule of thumb is to have at least one downfield shot per quarter, though most offensive coordinators prefer double that. Either way, the chunk of yardage has a positive impact on the offense’s ability to score. Finding ways to attach these to an offense’s best runs are a sound strategy for more points on the board.
After 27 years of coaching at both the collegiate and high school level, Keith Grabowski took on a new role in helping advance and grow the game of football. One of the most prolific writers on scheme, technique, and program building (American Football Monthly, AFCA Insider, X&O Labs and USA Football), Grabowski also hosts a daily podcast, "Coach and Coordinator" on which he interviews the most knowledgeable head coaches, coordinators, and position coaches from professional, college, and high school football.