What Is A Bang Bang Play In Football

A bang bang play in football refers to a play in which two events happen so close to one another in real time that the referees have trouble making the call.

The term bang bang in this context refers to the two actions happening nearly simultaneously with one another. Oftentimes when a bang bang play occurs in football the referee will choose to not make a call on the field due to the close nature of the call.

Example of Bang Bang Plays In Football

One example of bang bang plays occurs with pass interference, specifically defensive pass interference.

Pass Interference

In football, defenders are not allowed much physical contact on a receiver until he catches the ball. On some occasions when a pass is thrown to the receiver, the defender will run towards him in order to break it up.

If the defender was to hit the receiver before he catches the ball this would be a defensive pass interference call. This is because the defender will have interfered with the receivers ability to catch the ball.

A bang bang play occurs when a pass is caught by a receiver at nearly the exact time the defender makes contact. If the defender gets there a fraction of a second late there is nothing to worry about.

But if that defender gets there even a little bit early it can make it nearly impossible to catch the ball. Unfortunately, the nature of these plays is that they are so close in real-time the referee will usually opt to not throw a flag on the play.

Pass interference penalties are no longer allowed to be reviewed by the officials meaning that the call on the field for these plays will stand.


In order to commit a fumble in football you need to possess the ball and then proceed to lose that possession before you are tackled or step out of bounds.

Many times when a player fumbles the football he is already on his way to the ground. Once any body part aside from the hands or feet hit the turf the player is considered down.

This means in order for a fumble to occur the ball must start moving out of the players grasp before any body part hits the ground.

Many of these situations result in a player losing control of the ball within milliseconds of hitting the turf with a knee or elbow.

This is another example of a bang bang play as the referee must determine which of these two events occurred first.

Unlike pass interference calls these plays are allowed to be reviewed. This means the officials will check out a slow-motion replay of the play to determine what the correct call is.

Concluding Thoughts

A bang bang play in football is a play in which two events happen so close together the referee is unable to make an accurate call in real time.

The most common plays for this to occur are passing plays. As defenders looking to break up passes often make contact with the receiver a fraction of a second early.

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