A trick play in football is a play in which the offense uses unorthodox tactics in order to catch the opposing team off guard.
In most instances, a trick play will initially look like a regular play only for the offense to do something the defenders are not expecting.
The majority of trick plays are successful due to the fact the defense isn’t expecting them. The element of surprise is hugely important in these plays. If the defense sees the trick play coming this creates a much lower chance of success.
For example, on a punt, the gunners on the outside are expected to run down the field to tackle the punt returner. If a fake punt occurs and the punter is looking to pass the ball the gunner is going to run a receiving route.
Since the defender is not expecting to play pass defense it is much more likely that the gunner is able to get open on the play.
Oftentimes using a gadget play is going to involve taking a large risk. These sorts of plays can end up in long touchdowns but they often result in a loss of possession.
Since trick plays are often run on fourth down the odds of the other team getting possession of the ball is quite high. This often makes these plays especially crucial in determining who goes home with the win.
Common Examples Of Trick Plays
Now that you have learned what a trick play is in football it’s time to break down some of the most common ones used in the NFL.
A flea-flicker in football is a play in which the running back starts by getting a handoff from the quarterback. At this point, the defense starts to react as if it is a run play.
If the defenders bought the fake they will have abandoned their pass coverage to attempt and tackle the running back.
This should leave a receiver open downfield giving the chance for the quarterback to throw a deep pass.
If the defenders did not buy the fake they will stay in coverage against the deep receiver making the pass more difficult to complete.
Another common trick play seen in American football is the fake punt. Since punts occur on fourth down this type of play is especially risky.
Fake punts can be run in several different ways but it usually includes a pass from the punter or a direct snap to a player that will progress the ball by running it.
The defense on a punt is rarely expecting their opponents to attempt a fake. Instead, they will be focused on attempting to block the punt or protect their return man.
This gives the offense the advantage of surprise. Oftentimes a fake punt will feature different blocking than a regular punt would. This can throw the defense off and allow a hole to be generated for the ball carrier to go through.
Fake Field Goal
The final type of trick play we are going to cover is the fake field goal. Sometimes when teams are in field goal range they may elect to fake the field goal in favour of going for a touchdown.
On these plays, a receiver will usually leak out of the formation to present themselves as a passing option for the holder.
Since it is a field goal block these players are not expecting to play pass coverage. If an offensive player is able to make his way out into the open field uncovered it should be an easy completion for the offense.
Since these players are not playing pass coverage it is quite common for receivers to slip out uncovered. Though if the defense is able to stop this attempt the offense will lose possession of the ball as well as their chance at a field goal.