What Is a Counter Play In American Football?

counter play

What Is a Counter Play In American Football?

A counter play in American football is a play where the offensive team attempts to fool the defense by running the ball in the opposite direction of the initial play. This can be done with either a running back or a wide receiver. The hope is that the defense will bite on the fake and allow the offense to gain yardage.

How To Execute The Counter

First, the offense must choose which plays will be run as part of the counter. The most important part of this decision is picking plays that complement each other and have different formations or personnel groupings. For example, if the first play is a running play up the middle, the second could be a passing play to the outside.

Once the plays have been chosen, the offensive line and skill position players must execute them flawlessly. The key to making the play work is timing. The offensive line must sell the initial play by blocking as if they are running that play. Then, they must switch to blocking for the second play at the last second. This can be tricky, but it can be very effective if done correctly.

The skill position players also have an important role in executing a counterplay. They must run their routes as if the initial play is still happening. Then, at the last second, they must adjust their routes to fit the second play. Again, timing is everything here. If the skill position players don’t make their adjustments quickly enough, the defense will be able to figure out what’s happening and stop the play.

When To Use a Counter Play

Counter plays are often used when the offense is in a short-yardage situation, as it can be difficult to pick up those extra yards needed for a first down. Another reason to use a counterplay is if the offense is looking to change the pace of the game or catch the defense off-guard.

Notable Use

One of the most famous counterplays in NFL history is the “Philly Special.” The Philadelphia Eagles used this play in their Super Bowl LII victory over the New England Patriots. The Eagles ran a similar play earlier in the game, but the Patriots were able to stop it.

On the Philly Special, the Eagles ran a reverse handoff, with wide receiver Corey Clement taking the handoff and then throwing a touchdown pass to quarterback Nick Foles. The play caught the Patriots’ defense by surprise and helped seal the Eagles’ victory.