Passing game (American football)

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The quarterback (14) in the pocket when passing. In front of him his offensive line, which blocks the defense players

The passing game , English and Passing Play is a way for space gain in American football .

In a passing game, the potential pass recipients, for example wide receivers or tight ends , run a predetermined pass route and try to free themselves from their opponents, mostly cornerbacks . The quarterback moves a few steps backwards after the ball is passed to him (the snap ), away from the line of scrimmage (the drop back ). Then he throws to a pass receiver or runs himself if no receiver is free. In amateur leagues and especially in youth leagues, the recipient of the pass is often specified by the coach; in higher leagues, the quarterback himself decides who to throw the ball to. If the receiver does not catch the ball, the pass is incomplete as soon as the ball hits the ground. If the recipient drops the ball before he has control of it, this is a drop (dropped ball), if he has already controlled it, a fumble and the ball can be picked up by both teams. If a cornerback or another defender succeeds in catching the ball, this is called an interception . A maximum of one pass in the direction of the opposing end zone ( forward pass ) is permitted per play . Passing games at the same height or in the back area ( lateral pass ), however, are possible as often as desired during a play.

The passing game is less secure than the running game because not every pass is complete, which is not the case with a normal handover of the ball to the running back . However, full passes usually bring more space gain than a run.

Pass routes

The most common pass routes

Over time, many pass routes have developed, these are the most commonly used:

  • Go / Fly : just straight ahead
  • Fade : almost like a go route, only that the wide receiver 'drifts' slightly outwards
  • Post : about 10 yards straight ahead, then at an angle of about 45 ° inwards - to the goal post , the goal post in American football
  • Corner : like a post, about 10 yards straight ahead, then at an angle of about 45 ° to the outside - to the corner of the playing field
  • Slant : One step straight ahead, then with an inward bend of about 45 °
  • In / Out : 5 yards straight, then in / out at a right angle
  • Curl / Hook : about 6 yards straight ahead, then a turn of about 180 ° (the pass is usually already on the way during the turn)
  • Comeback : like a hook, only that the wide receiver comes towards the quarterback
  • Flat / Flare / Wheel : route reserved for running backs and tight ends that simply lead out of the backfield
  • Under : like the flat, but on the inside


Photo by Bradybury Robinson

In the rugby on which American football is based, only back passes are allowed. The first forward pass was thrown in 1886 at a game between Yale University and Princeton University by Walter Camp . Although it was still illegal at the time, it was recognized by the referees . Until it was officially legalized in 1906, the forward pass was used occasionally, but in most cases it was invalidated. The passing game was legalized mainly because of the otherwise very bloody football games, since the players were not yet wearing any equipment. In 1905 there were 18 dead and 159 seriously injured in football. The attitude to the new forward pass was basically positive, but it was assessed as very insecure and only applicable in exceptional situations, as the opposing team takes over the ball themselves if the pass is incomplete.

Formerly football , 1879

The first legal passport was thrown by Bradbury Robinson that same year . The quarterback of the Saint Louis University (SLU) threw in the game against Carroll College after an incomplete pass a complete 20- yard - touchdown -Pass to Jack Schneider. In the rest of the season, many other universities began to introduce forward passes. Despite these many attempts, the SLU had the best passes and the best statistics under head coach Eddie Cochems , so they achieved a perfect season with a record of eleven wins with no defeat. The adoption of the system by the popular University of Notre Dame football team made the passing game increasingly popular. Since the football resembled a rugby ball and was therefore relatively unsuitable for passing, its shape was changed several times until 1912.

Individual evidence

  1. 100 years forward pass. at: , accessed July 19, 2009. (English)
  2. Terence Jeffrey: Article in the Chicago Tribune , August 30, 2006.
  3. ^ New Football A Chaos, The Experts Declare: Ground Gaining by Carrying the Ball Made Impossible; Onside Kick Is Only Hope. In: New York Times . September 30, 1906.
  4. ^ David Nelson: The Anatomy of a Game: Football, the Rules, and the Men Who Made the Game. University of Delaware Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87413-455-2 , p. 128.