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Football’s Reverse Play an Oldie but Goodie

Surprise Aggressive Defenses with Misdirection


Twins Z Motion Reverse

Twins Formation - Z Motion Reverse

Sean McCormick

The reverse handoff has been a playbook staple since the days of balloon-shaped footballs, and it remains a successful trick play against today's aggressive defenses.

Setting Up the Reverse

The reverse play must closely mirror a rushing play, which forces defenders to pursue the football to one side of the field - such as a sweep or power play to the strong side of the offensive formation.

Timing, Timing, Timing

The best time to run the reverse is after noticing the defensive players on the weak side of the offensive formation quickly leave their assigned area in pursuit of the run play to the opposite side. Keep an eye on the weak side defensive end and linebacker.

Sell It Like It's Nickel Candy

Except for the receiver taking the handoff, the reverse play should look as much like the 'set-up' play as much as possible.

Twins Z-Motion Reverse

Mirroring the Twins Z-motion Tailback Power, the slot receiver will motion toward the quarterback. At the ball snap, the receiver will take a 45-degree step in the direction of the tailback to gain depth to receive the handoff from the quarterback.

Slight Blocking Change

The weak side tackle down blocks to the spot vacated by the pulling guard. The tight end blocks the defensive lineman for a two count, and releases to the second level to block a pursuing linebacker.


If the weak side defensive end charges down the line, as he has on the other tailback power plays, the receiver will likely face a one-on-one situation with the cornerback. The advantage should be on the offense's side.

Coaching Points

  • Teach the slot receiver to make 'one move only' when faking out the cornerback. One step, and go!
  • If the defensive end stays with his contain assignment, teach the slot receiver to 'read' the end. If the end prevents running outside, the receiver should quickly cut inside and get as much yardage as possible.
  • If the slot receiver has a decent throwing arm, consider a pass off the reverse.

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