A play-action pass is a misdirection play used by the offense in which the quarterback takes the snap and fakes the beginning of a running play before actually executing a passing play. The running back will act as though they have been handed the ball while the quarterback will hesitate for a moment before looking for a receiver. The offense attempts to mislead the defense into guarding against the run, hoping to get an open receiver and convert a pass attempt.
Offenses will use play-action passes to keep the defense off balance. A good play-action will keep the defense from reacting quickly to the passing play, allowing the offense precious seconds to get open. A team will generally have a more effective play-action game if they are gaining yards on regular running plays, since the defense is more likely to overreact to the run fake. Play-actions are also very effective against overly aggressive defenses, since they are more likely to pursue the fake running play immediately after the snap. The offense also hopes that the defensive backs will hesitate on the fake, allowing the receivers to get behind them for a long gain.