How many times can you throw the football in one play?

While listening to a recent game, I heard a play where the quarterback threw the ball….twice! He threw it the first time and it was blocked by a defensive player. The quarterback caught it and threw it again to an open receiver who caught the ball.

throw football forward

So, is that allowed?


How many times can you throw the football in one play?

The answer is as many times as you want to throw it backward but you can only throw it forward once.

In the play mentioned above, the first throw was forward and although it really didn’t go anywhere, it did go forward first. Once that has happened, you cannot throw it forward again. The play resulted in a penalty of 5 yards and a loss of down.

However, if the quarterback who caught it just advanced the ball by running, that would have been fine.

What is a backward pass?


A backward pass is any pass (overhand throw) that is behind the line of scrimmage (the imaginary line going across the field where the play starts) and goes behind the person doing the throwing. Sometimes, this is called a lateral but laterals are really underhanded and not overhanded.

Why would you throw a backward pass?


The object of the game is to go forward with the ball towards the goal you are trying to score in, so why would you throw the ball backward on purpose? The answer is to deceive your opponent or to catch them off guard. Most often, a backward pass is thrown by the quarterback to the outside of the field towards a wide receiver or running back. That person then tries to throw it down field to a waiting receiver. Hopefully, the offense catches someone on the defense who assumed the ball was going a completely different direction and the new receiver is wide open for the pass. Sometimes this works but not very often. It would be considered a trick play for sure.

So, now you know! For more trick plays, click the link above.

Tell us what you think!