Scenario: Team A needs to get into field goal range to have a shot at winning the game. They also dont have any time outs. Lets say there is a minute left in the game.
Team B knows team A is going to pass the ball to the sidelines. We all know the reason for this (get yards and stop the clock with the reciever stepping out of bounds).
Team A throws a couple of completions to the sideline as planned, but instead of one more sideline pass with time running down they throw one right down the middle. Then the reciever (he would not have been as aggressively defended because team B is defending the sidelines and the long threat at this point) wings the ball laterally to the side lines and out of bounds. Incomplete lateral pass. Clock stops because of incomplete pass. Many yards picked up. Team A has time to kick the winning field goal.
Is this scenario legal? (the lateral pass part)
Would the clock stop?
Where would they spot the ball?
What you’re really talking about here is an intentional fumble.
I can’t find the NFL rulebook online, but the NCAA rulebook is quite explicit about this, and I imagine the NFL is pretty similar.
Here’s the relevant section of the NCAA rules:
The NCAA penalty is 5 yards from the spot of the foul plus loss of down. I believe the NFL considers an intentional fumble as an illegal pass, in which case the penalty is the same.
So the ball would be spotted 5 yards behind where the guy threw it from, the team would lose a down, and the clock would be started as soon as the ball was spotted; the clock wouldn’t really stop anyway, other than the time it takes to announce and mark off the penalty.
That’s a pretty stiff penalty for a play that has an iffy chance of success to begin with
Yes, that’s legal, but exceedingly difficult to execute.
The clock would stop ONLY if the lateral would go out of bounds – otherwise, the ball would be “live” (i.e. advanceable by whatever offensive OR defensive player gets to it first).
Keep in mind that in actual practice, no defense ever sells out totally to defend the sidelines – a safety or two will normally still play “centerfield”. Therefore, when the receiver has caught the ball and is ready to heave a lateral out-of-bounds (a long throw from the middle of the field), he will have a safety in his grill in short order. This virtually guarantees a botched lateral attempt of some kind – most likely, preventing enough zing on the ball to get it out of bounds. After all, the WR won’t be able to set his feet and fire.
Keep in mind you can not attempt 2 forward passes. It seems that if receiver could catch a pass and then throw a pass a bit backwards towards a receiver along the sidelines and it might be legal. I think a “lateral pass” is one that that does not go FOWARD. Likewise if the teams was really stupid they could run the ball up the middle…gain a few yards…then have the running back throw towards a player on the sideline (but slightly backwards) and out of bouds. I think that is legal but the net gain would not be worth the risk.
but then again i could be wrong
I guess as a trick play, it could be used to SEEM like a legal lateral was being attempted. The reciever throws to the sideline and then, whooops, the ball goes sailing over the closest offensive players head. This would be a judgement call for the ref. and may still complete the objective of the offense ( to stop the clock ).
By the way, can an overhand pass be a lateral after the line of scrimmage or does it have to be an underhand pass to be considered a lateral?
Squid - You are correct, a lateral pass is ANY pass that does not go forward. 90 degrees sideways and backwards are acceptable.
In football, how you pass the ball doesn’t matter. The only difference is forward or backward. And even if the passer is facing forward and the ball is knocked backward because the passer is hit while throwing, it’s still considered a forward pass.
As for throwing a backwards pass overhand, just watch highlights of the Music City Miracle.