A short-yardage situation in football occurs when a team needs to gain a very small amount of yards in order to get a touchdown or a first down. These sorts of situations can occur on any down but are especially exciting on third and fourth downs.
When in a short-yardage situation the play calling and the personnel are likely to be changed by both teams. It is no secret that running the ball is the easiest way to pick up a yard or two in football.
For this reason, both the offense and defense will often change their playcalling and personnel in order to compensate for the likelihood of a rushing play.
Short Yardage Strategies
Now that you know what short yardage is in football you may be wondering what sort of plays teams will use to gain this small number of yards.
One of the most common plays used in a short-yardage situation is the quarterback sneak. Quarterback sneaks involve the quarterback taking the snap directly and proceeding to run immediately into his offensive line.
Instead of having a hole to run through like most rushing plays a QB sneak will involve the quarterback pushing his way through the line or jumping over the top.
Generally, this play is done when a team has one yard or less to go for the first down or touchdown.
This play can be even more effective near the goal line as only the tip of the ball needs to break the plane in order for a touchdown to be called.
This can allow the quarterback to jump over the pile and shove the football into the endzone.
Play Action Pass
A play-action passing play is another common tactic used in short-yardage situations. Since the defense is going to expect a rush on this play a play-action pass is going to be very effective.
A play-action pass involves the offense faking a rushing play only to ultimately pass the ball downfield.
If the defense bites on the play-action fake then the offense will have an easy pass they can complete in order to get the first down or touchdown.
Run Up The Gut
Another one of the most common plays used when in a short-yardage situation is to simply run the ball up the gut.
If a team has a powerful running back or fullback running the ball up the middle is often one of the most effective ways to pick up a few yards.
The effectiveness of these runs will largely be determined by the offensive and defensive lines. If the offensive line is able to get a good push then the running back should have an easy job of picking up the required yardage.
Deep Pass Attempt
One of the other strategies that are sometimes used when looking to pick up yards in these situations is a deep pass.
As we covered earlier teams will often commit to stopping the run on these plays as this is the most likely play call from the offense.
Since they are in a rushing defense it is likely that one of the wide receivers is going to be in single coverage.
On some occasions, teams may decide to take a shot deep when they see these one on one matchups.
This is going to be a lower percentage play but will give the offense an opportunity to gain a lot of yards.