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Lateral pass

From Academic Kids

In American football and Canadian football a lateral pass — usually called simply a lateral, but officially called a "backward pass" in amateur American football, and also called an "onside pass" in Canadian football — is a sideways or rearward throwing of the football to a teammate. The pass cannot itself advance the ball, though of course the receiver can advance after catching it. This is distinguished from a forward pass, which moves the ball closer to the goal.

There are virtually no restrictions on the use of laterals. Any number of laterals may be thrown in a given play. Any player may throw a lateral from any position on the field to any other player. If the lateral is complete and the receiver is behind the line of scrimmage, the receiver may in turn throw a forward pass. If the defensive team takes possession of the ball, they may also freely throw laterals.

Unlike a forward pass, if a lateral hits the ground or an official, play continues. The ball may be recovered by either side. In NFL rules a backward pass other than the snap, if muffed by a receiver before it first touches the ground, after it touches the ground the ball becomes dead if an opponent recovers it.

The oxymoron "forward lateral" is used to describe a lateral pass that actually went forward.

In College football, the lateral is used more extensively than in professional football, more in the same manner as is done in rugby.

One well-known college play involving the lateral pass is the infamous "Band Play" in the Stanford-California game from 1982. In this play, Cal ran the ball back on a kickoff all the way for a touchdown using several laterals, eventually running into the Stanford Band who had already taken the field (assuming that the game was already over).

A well-known NFL lateral pass occurred during the Music City Miracle play at the end of the 2000 playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills.

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