What is a QB Sneak?

what is a qb sneak

Last updated on October 30th, 2023 at 11:27 am

A quarterback sneak takes place when the quarterback receives the ball from the offensive line’s center and runs forward to collect a small number of yards. Typically speaking, teams run the quarterback sneak on a 3rd or 4th and one (or inches) situation because the yards to get to a first down is one or less. Another time teams use the QB sneak is when their offense is on the goal line in front of the touchdown zone. Since the offensive team is close to scoring, teams might try and use a QB sneak to score a touchdown if they need one yard or less. Running the QB sneak might not be as risky as a run or pass play when you are one yard out of the endzone.


Is QB Sneaks Dangerous?

QB sneak attempts are dangerous for two reasons. The first reason is that the quarterback can injure themselves on the play. For example, the QB can risk sustaining an injury to their head or another part of their body by extending their body in short-yardage situations. 


Secondly, QB sneaks are dangerous because the quarterback might fumble the ball as they pass the line of scrimmage. For example, a quarterback might try and stretch the football out in front of them to collect the first down. However, they may lose control of the ball during the extension if people knock into their hands and bodies. That means running a QB sneak might turn into a turnover, which could give the other team a more favorable ball position to start their set of offensive downs.


How Often Do QB Sneaks Work?

According to PFF.com, QB sneaks have a pretty high success rate of 84% on a 3rd or 4th down and one situation. However, teams generally are hesitant to run a QB sneak for the reasons above. While some teams use the quarterback sneak more often, other teams like to look at specific matchups and the situation if they plan to run that play or not.


Can the Center Position Run the Sneak Play?

The center position on the offensive line must allow the football to leave their hands at the start of a play. That means that the center can’t just run with the ball when the quarterback yells hike. However, a center has an essential job by pushing back a defenseman on the snap to give their QB a lane to run into to collect a few yards.


How Do Defensive Teams Stop the QB Sneak?

The first way to stop a successful QB sneak is for the defensive team to anticipate the play ahead of time. Knowing that the offensive team only needs a yard or so to collect a first down or touchdown can allow the defensive team to put everyone in a goal-line formation. From there, defensive teams need to be ready to crash the line, not to allow a space to open for a QB to sneak through, and ultimately push him back with a sack.


However, defensive teams should be aware that just because a situation could result in a QB sneak does not mean one might happen. For example, if a defensive team crashes the line and the offensive team runs a pass play, it will be easy for the QB and wide receiver / running back to connect on a quick pass. The most obvious time a defensive team can assume a QB sneak is if the offensive team is fourth and inches on the goal-line and they need more than a field goal if the game is late in the fourth quarter to win.



In conclusion, a QB sneak play has a strong conversion rate, according to PFF.com, but the play is risky. The primary drawback to the play is risking the health and safety of a team’s quarterback. The second reason why NFL teams choose not to run the play is the risk of losing the ball via a fumble. 


In the end, it comes down to the situation of the game. For example, if the game is in the playoffs or Superbowl and the offensive team can win the game, they might run this play. It just comes down to how comfortable everyone is and what the situation is to run this risky play at the end of the day.


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