On AFM: The “Pop” Pass in Modern Football – A Simple Yet Effective Play

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As a young quarterback playing pee wee football, one of the first pass plays I learned was the tight end “pop” pass. It was a quick hitting play- action pass off of a dive play. From what I can remember we ran it from the straight-T formation made famous in Ohio by Woody Hayes. After faking to the fullback, the quarterback stops and fires the ball to the tight end who simply releases from the line of scrimmage and looks for the ball just after he cleared the linebackers who are filling downhill on the dive play to the fullback. It was a very short pass, yet the yardage it gained on the seam created in the defense allowed for big plays.

I don’t have my playbook from those years, but to my recollection, the play looked something like this:
straight t pop

This simple play remains effective today, and is making its way into spread offenses that use the read game. Teams are using it as a packaged run-pass option with the quarterback making his decision to give the run or throw the pass based on a post-snap read on the linebacker. They are also calling it as a pass to complement the power read/inverted veer and zone read plays….read more

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2 thoughts on “On AFM: The “Pop” Pass in Modern Football – A Simple Yet Effective Play

  1. Good write up. A few things of note: in most modern schemes the pop pass in a spread offense the pop pass is typically away from action. You’ll note in your old pop pass that the run action split the pop pass area (the same will be done out of a pistol look on the veer option play, the pop pass in general will split those two run lanes). For the most part though, in spread schemes, the pop pass is completely away from action.

    For zone read, that makes it generally easy because the pop pass is in the same viewing window as the actual read option. This allows for packaged plays where the QB still has the run option within the scheme of the play. For the inverted veer it isn’t so easy, because the pop pass is to the back side. So the pop pass is outside the viewing window. Obviously, it can still be done, but as an OC you must be more aware of defensive tendencies before calling it. The pop pass must get out of the hand quickly, and if the defense undercuts the pop pass it’s likely to be a turnover. On the inverted veer look the QB has less time to read that. My suggestion is that you actually use the pulling OG to block the “optioned” DE playside to give the QB a bit more time to get to read his keys, then give a further backside option (hitch or streak) that he can move to quickly and throw away if he’s immediately pressured.

    I see that you ran your pop pass play side (again, between the run option splits typically associated with the inverted veer). That’s good, but a bit more dangerous in how it puts defenders cutting beneath the pop pass or coming up onto it. I think what you’ll find is that it is easier to read (same viewing window) but is also a tighter and more dangerous play then running it to the backside here, which seems to be the general trend that most teams are going to.

    Nice write up.

  2. I may not have noted it but the pass off power read is not a read as it is in some zone plays. The guard is pulling to block the DE and the other OL are blocking back for a gap. The play is effective to the frontside because the run action is splitting the pop pass area. The backside pop would be effective as well, especially against scraping backers. You have to be careful of how the safety who is assigned cutback is playing unless you have two receivers on that side and can keep him deep with one of them.

    As I stated in the article, the key to whether to throw it frontside or backside is the way which the linebackers are filling. As you will see in the example of us running it, we are getting a downhill fill by the linebackers. This leaves a void in which we can hit the look route.

    Thank you for your reply and coaching points.

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