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Sweeps and Pitch Plays

Sweeps and pitch plays are run plays to the outside. The major difference between the two is that the quarterback hands off the ball on a sweep where as the quarterback must toss the ball on a pitch. A major advantage of a sweep is that it allows a ball carrier to search for an open hole and can turn the ball up field very easily. A pitch allows the ball carrier to get outside much faster and the play develops much quicker.

The basic blocking scheme for the offensive line is straight ahead blocking. The fullback can serve as the lead blocker or can be used to fake the counter play. A "sweep trap" can easily be incorporated - the blocking becomes similar to an outside trap, except the pulling lineman also sweeps to the outside to become the lead blocker.

Preventing an outside linebacker from maintaining outside containment can be useful to help get the back into the open field. This can be accomplished with the use of a "crack back". A crack back is where the X or Z receiver crashes down on the defender, resulting in a "blind side" block. The receiver can be in motion or can crash from their inital position. In other situations, the Y receiver can block down to create a double team at the outside corner.

The goal for the ball carrier is simple - get to the outside as fast as possible and turn it up field. In some cases, the back will see a hole and turn it up field before getting to the outside. This is more common with sweep plays. In other situations, the ball carrier will string the defense out as far as the sidelines before turning up field. The rule of thumb (which applies to ALL run plays) is to try and up and down the field instead from sideline to sideline. It becomes a waste of effort when a back runs 25 yards along the line of scrimmage to gain only 3 yards towards the end zone.

The ball carrier must have great running vision to find the opening. In many instances, the back will actually cut back inside once they get outside into the open running area. This happens when a defense over pursues the play. If the ball carrier recognizes this and cuts back, he will find that there will be a lot of open field available.

Sweeps and pitches are successful when the ball carrier is able to turn the ball up field to gain positive yardage. Although running to the sideline can gain extra yardage, it sometimes becomes more work than for what it is worth. The ball carrier must keep their vision open and look for areas to cut back. In terms of blocking, the offensive line must sustain their blocks and keep the defenders inside. In addition, the offense must stop the outside linebacker (or defensive end) from containing the outside. This can be done by double teaming the end with the Y-receiver or by using a crack back.

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