Jeffrey D. Allred

Shawn Liotta breaks down the Indoor Footballl League play-action pass game. 

March 27, 2017

The running game is an important part of a balanced and explosive offense in the Indoor Football League. As we have examined in our previous teaching modules, the IFL rule set allows for creativity with varied motions, formations, and backfield actions to keep the defense on their heels. Once a successful running game has been established, teams can then apply explosive play-action passing concepts to take advantage of aggressive defenses who are selling out in an effort to stop the run.

A successful play-action passing game is dependent on the following factors:


The most important element to any passing concept is the protection unit for the quarterback. It is important that the offensive linemen sell run action with a low pad level to simulate run action and be sound in their protection assignments. If the quarterback launch point is between the guards it is essential that the offensive line account for the three down defensive linemen. If it is a movement pass or naked bootleg concept this will change the protection with a defensive end at times being left unblocked and influenced by the action of the play. The running back will account for the blitzing linebacker in most four man play-pass protection units, following his fake of the called run action.

Play Fake

It is imperative that play-action concepts are triggered off of successful run concepts. Each team will typically have at least one play-action concept off of each of their running plays. The quarterback and the running back or receiver must make the run fake appear to be as close to an actual run play as possible. This will influence linebackers and secondary players to “force” or attack the run action placing them out of position for the pass.

Route Structure

The offense must understand how to attack potential defensive reactions to the run fake. This involves the deployment of pass routes into areas that will be potentially vacated by defenders attacking the line of scrimmage in an effort to defend the run. Route release tempo at the snap and the stemming of high motion will also play a vital role in the receiver getting open on play-action. Most common play-action concepts will have a deep or “shot” route attacking deep defenders, an intermediate concept over the top of linebackers and strong safeties pressing the line of scrimmage, and a quick check down concept for the quarterback underneath that can serve as a bailout if the deep to intermediate routes are covered.

Situational Game Planning

Just as important as the execution of a successful play-action pass is WHEN it is called during the game. An effective play caller will understand the down and distance, where the play-pass can fool a defense that is expecting run in that particular game situation. For example, a defense is more likely to aggressively attack run action in a 3rd and 2 situation than in a 3rd and 12 scenario. The same holds true for situations that typically have a heavy run tendency such as goal-line situations.

Tendency Breakers

Often coaches will develop heavy tendencies of successful running plays from certain formations or motion combinations. This creates a heavy tendency for the defense to focus on in their game-plan process. These tendencies can be created intentionally by the offensive play caller who will then build in a play-action pass concept off of the same formation and run action that will yield an explosive play because the defenses preparation and planning has it expecting the run in that situation.

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