Quick football question about running the ball

Something I’ve always wondered when I watch football. Often times the QB hands the ball to someone (a running-back I assume?) who then tries to squeak by the defense for a first down, or at least get closer to it. Yet more often than not I see them run straight into the large mass of players. I can see that if they just went a bit to the right/left, there would be no one there! I understand that the idea is that all of the linemen hold off the defense so he can get through, but I see it not work more than I see it work.

I mean, why is it more desirable to run right into where everyone is as opposed to going around them?

Those darn defensemen always get in the way.

A straight line route up the field is a lot quicker than running even a few yards to the sideline first. That big bunch of people is there precisely because that’s where the runner is going to go. If the runner was going to go to one side or the other, that’s where the big bunch of people would likely be. When you notice that this doesn’t happen (i.e. the runner goes way out to the edge and nobody’s there), somebody on the other side screwed up big time.

Ok…but how do they know he will go up the middle? Just because the way the line is set up? From deciphering their plays/calls? It just seems so much of football is cut and dry. The line looks like this, this play will be what they do, so the defense does this, and it’s just a matter of who does their job better. Every now and then you might see a fake-out or something, but why doesn’t it happen more often? Is it really that hard/dangerous to go for a fake FG attempt and try and get a TD? (Assuming you’re actually close to the goal line, obviously you wouldn’t do that for a 40 yard FG attempt.)

Well, of course you can see those big holes: You have a top-down view! The running back has a split second to decide where to run. He can’t take the time to scan the field and then decide to trot to the right or left. Running backs who are good are frequently referred to as having “good vision”, which means that they can see those holes quickly and go for them.

The field looks much, much different when you are standing on it. Remember, all of those linemen are well over six feet tall, and all around 300-350 pounds. The running back is usually less than six feet tall, and around 200-220 pounds. He might miss some of those holes when he has that kind of beef blocking his view!

It depends somewhat on your run-block scheme. For example, zone block emphasizes creases instead of holes for the running back to hit. From the standard television 50 yard line view, it’s harder to see creases than it is holes.

In the NFL, the linebackers are really fast. You need them to be blocked if you want more than a few yards.

Well, the problem is that the defensive players can move, too. If the running back tries to go around the edge there should be a defender there waiting to cut him off.

True. I always forget that not only are they on the field, no above it, they have a helmet with poor peripheral vision.