A strategy in which the offense will fake one play immediately after the snap before actually running a different play. The most common form of play action is for the quarterback to take the snap and fake a handoff to the running back before looking downfield and attempting to pass the ball. The idea behind play action is to attempt to get the defense to react to the fake play and give the offensive players a chance to get open and successfully run the real play. Defenses that are very aggressive are more susceptible to play action plays as they tend to pursue very quickly.
Play action plays are the most common way for an offense to try and keep the defense off-balance. In addition to the run-fake play action, the quarterback can also fake a pass quickly before handing it to the running back on a delayed handoff. Play action is more successful when a team has run the fake play prior to the play action. For instance, if a team is running effectively throughout a game, a play action fake is more likely to draw the defense away because the defense has to aggressively attempt to stop the run play, allowing a receiver to get open downfield.