Football Running Plays

Football Running Plays

The Ball Carrier

football ball carrier

The ball carrier is the player that has the ball in their possession. On a running play, the ball carrier is typically the running back.

Running Backs

football Running Backs

The running back is a player on offense that gets the ball via a hand off from the quarterback at the start of a down. There are three types of running backs:

Running backs can also catch passes as receivers.

Football Running Plays

A running play in football is when the quarterback hands off the ball to a running back, who aims to gain yards by running. Running plays are one of two ways used by the offense to advance towards the end zone. Coaches can get very creative when drawing running plays, however, there are some basic running routes and plays that are most often used during football games.

Football Running Routes

Similar to a wide receiver's passing route tree, there is a running back tree, which is slightly less known than the receiver version. That showcases some of the most important running back routes in football, which are:

  • Flare
  • Flat
  • Hitch
  • Out
  • Post
  • Go

Although there are some similar routes to the passing route tree, running backs have a different function than wide receivers and therefore cannot use all of the same routes.

Running Plays

Together with the running routes, running backs must know the running plays drawn by the coaches. Although each coach can have different strategies and that way different plays, there are some plays that are very common in football and used by many. Those are:


Football Blast

The blast is a simple play in which the ball carrier aims to quickly win a few yards. The play is usually led with a block by the fullback who clears the way for a halfback to attack the defensive line for a quick carry.


The counter is a play that involves two running backs. The quarterback will pretend to toss the ball to the first running back, who will then either run to the right or left side. After that, the second running back will get a real handoff from the quarterback and carry the ball forward through the middle.


Similar to the counter, the draw aims to confuse the defense. The play starts as if it were a passing play, with the offensive linemen acting accordingly. However, instead of passing the ball, the quarterback will turn back and hand off the ball to a running back coming from behind.

Off Tackle

In this run, the halfback and fullback will both run towards the tight end. The tight end and the full back will provide additional blocking to the halfback to advance with the ball.


The pitch is the opposite of the counter. It also involves two running backs, however, the first player will run to the middle after a fake handoff by the quarterback, who then will actually toss the ball to the second running back who is running to either side of the field.


The reverse involves two handoffs in the same play. The first one will be from the quarterback to the running back. After that, the running back will run laterally instead of forward, handing the ball off to the second player, who will actually run forward looking to gain yards.


In the slant, the running back will start to run straight, and get the ball from the quarterback. After the handoff, he will change direction and run diagonally, off a fullback's block.


The sweep involves a lot of movement from the offensive linemen. They will run to the side that the running back will be running and "sweep" the area, blocking any defensive players. After the handoff, the running back will move laterally, waiting for the offensive linemen to move and clean the running area.

What plays are run during a game depends on what are a team's strengths and weaknesses, and what skills their offensive linemen and running backs have. However, the plays above are some that efficient and easy to execute, making them very popular.