What Is a Play-Action Fake in Football?

The play-action fake is an offensive play in which the quarterback fakes handing off the ball for a run play before throwing a pass. In the NFL and in college football, it is more commonly called the "play-action pass."

After the ball is snapped to the quarterback, he mimics either handing it off or pitching it to a running back. The running back will pretend to hold the ball while advancing, and the quarterback will sometimes conceal the ball for a second or two to maintain the illusion of a hand-off. The quarterback then attempts to pass the ball with the hope that defensive backs and linebackers have fallen for the fake hand-off and have abandoned their coverage to move toward the running back.