Flea flicker (American football)

Flea flicker (American football)

A flea-flicker is an unorthodox play (often called a trick play) in American football designed to fool the defensive team into thinking that a play is a run instead of a pass. It can be considered an extreme variant of the play action pass and an extension of the halfback option play.

After the snap the quarterback hands off or laterals the football to a running back (or another player on his team), who then runs towards or parallel to the line of scrimmage. Before the running back crosses the line of scrimmage, he laterals the football back to the quarterback, who then looks for an eligible receiver down field to throw a pass to.

If the defensive players think it is just a normal running play, they will leave their defensive positions guarding against the pass to run upfield and cover the running back, leaving the quarterback free from any immediate pass rush, and leaving receivers potentially open to catch a pass.

The flea-flicker is an extremely high-risk play and it often results in a big gain, a turnover, or a big loss. One problem is that it takes a significant amount of time for the play to develop. During that time, the defense might get past the offensive line to tackle the running back before he can make the pitch to the quarterback, or sack the quarterback before he can throw the ball. Then there is also the risk that the running back could fumble if he is hit as he pitches the ball.

Because of these risks the play is rarely used in a game. However, with 32 teams in the NFL, there are usually several instances of the play each season. The Philadelphia Eagles, however, have used it very often in recent years to varying degrees of success.

Notable examples

Some flea-flicker plays have been used in many key National Football League games, including the Super Bowl, leading to dramatic results.
*January 12, 1969: Super Bowl III, just before halftime; the then Baltimore Colts, trailing 7-0 to the New York Jets tried a flea-flicker, but despite the fact that Jimmy Orr was wide-open near the end zone, Earl Morrall threw the ball to fullback Jerry Hill. Jets safety Jim Hudson ended up intercepting the pass. An additional irony is that during a regular-season game against the Atlanta Falcons, Morrall used the same play and was able to find Orr for a touchdown.
*January 30, 1983: Super Bowl XVII, the Washington Redskins used a flea-flicker to try to fool the Miami Dolphins. However, the Dolphins were not fooled; Miami defensive back Lyle Blackwood intercepted the pass.
*November 18, 1985: Joe Theismann of the Washington Redskins infamously had his career come to an end on a nationally televised Monday Night Football game at the hands of New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. The play in question was a flea-flicker attempt which failed to fool the Giants’ defense. Upon tackling Theismann, Taylor’s entire weight came crashing down on Theismann, severely breaking his leg. [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i_bJv_0z-k Video of Joe Theisman's career-ending injury] ]
*January 25, 1987: Super Bowl XXI, the New York Giants successfully ran a flea-flicker play against the Denver Broncos: Quarterback Phil Simms passed the ball to receiver Phil McConkey who ran all the way to the Broncos 1-yard line before being tackled for a 44-yard gain. The Giants then scored a touchdown on the next play.
*January 8, 2006: During a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh wide receiver Antwaan Randle El ran the ball almost all the way to the right sideline before lateraling back across the field to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who then threw to receiver Cedrick Wilson for a touchdown. This was also a direct snap play.

*Week 14, December 7 2007: Tom Brady did a Flea Flicker play against Pittsburgh Steelers with wide receiver Randy Moss, with Moss grounding the ball, the pitch back to Brady ended up freezing the safeties and linebackers, then the play ended with a 56-yard touchdown to Jabar Gaffney.

ee also

*Football strategy
*Statue of Liberty play
*Trick Play


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