what is a crackback block

What Is A Crackback Block In Football?

There are many ways to beat opponents and gain an advantage in football. Some players focus on speed, others on agility, and some on strength. However, one move can give a player an advantage irrespective of size or skill: the crackback block.

So, what is a crackback block in football? 

A crackback block is a type of blind-side block. It’s when an offensive player, usually a wide receiver or tight end, blocks a defender running toward the ball carrier. This move can be legal or illegal, depending on which league one plays in and which body part one hits.

Continue reading to learn more about when a crackback block is legal and when it’s not.

Crackback Block Rule

Being a kind of blindside block, crackback blocks are typically off-limits. That said, not every league prohibits them. Here’s what to expect depending on which level you’re playing football.

Crackback Block Youth Football Rule

The crackback block is illegal in youth football as of 2018. That’s because it can be a dangerous move, especially for young players who are still developing their skills.

The blind-side block can be a powerful move. Young players may not have the strength or skills to properly execute the block. As a result, it can lead to serious injuries for the player getting blocked. 

Additionally, the crackback block can be a confusing move for young players. They may not understand what’s happening and why they are getting blocked. That can lead to confusion and frustration and even cause young players to quit the sport.

Crackback Block College Football Rule

In college football, a crackback block is an illegal move. The NCAA considers it a dangerous move. The rule changed in 2019, making it illegal for an offensive player to blind-side block a defender.

Should the player block a defender by hitting them above the shoulder, they also get booked for targeting. The offending player receives disqualification for two halves, starting with the one disqualified.

NFL Crackback Block Rule

Before a 2017 rule change, crackback blocks of all sorts were legal, provided they weren’t more than two yards from the tackle box. Offensive players could hit defenders under the waist, neck, and head.

defense trying to get to the ball carrier

Today, a crackback block is only legal in the NFL if it’s between the waist and shoulders of the defender. Also prohibited is the blocker’s movement parallel to or toward his end zone. Otherwise, it becomes illegal, attracting penalties against the offensive team and sometimes the blocker.

How To Run A Crackback Block

The crackback block can be a very effective way to catch a defender off guard, especially if they’re not expecting it. A tight end or wide receiver must split out wide before running a crackback block. They can’t be closely alongside the scrimmage line.

The quarterback sets the crackback receiver in motion before the snap. The receiver then moves toward the formation on the inside. This receiver should perform a crackback block to the defender positioned on the line’s edge at the snap.

The block arrives from the defender’s blindside, surprising him and throwing him off his angle. At the play’s outset, the tight end or offensive tackle opposite the edge defender may administer a swift direct strike.

They can then move outside and peel behind the receiver to act as the running back’s lead blocker.

Execution Tips

Wait for the right moment. The crackback block needs perfect timing to be effective. Wait for the defender to commit to running toward their endzone before making your move.

If you hit the defender too early, the defender will see you coming and have a good chance to adjust their course. If you hit the defender too late, he’ll already be past you and won’t get affected by the block.

When you do make your move, do so with conviction. You need to sell the block to the defender for it to be effective. 

Use your body to your advantage when executing the crackback block. Get low and drive your shoulder into the defender’s midsection. This way, you’ll have more power and make it more difficult for the defender to shed the block.

Once you make contact with the defender, continue to push and drive them back. The goal is to completely disrupt their momentum and take them out of the play. Don’t let up until the play is over or the defender is completely taken out of the play.

When Is A Crackback Block Legal?

In some situations, a crackback block may be legal in the NFL. It’s okay to make contact between the waist and shoulders on the body’s front, not the back. Ensure you aren’t moving parallel or toward your end zone.

defense trying to stop a play

It’s essential to watch your moves when performing the crackback block, as it can still be illegal in some situations. Avoid diving when attempting a crackback block, as this can hit the opponent’s legs. Besides, stop lunging, as this can hit the opponent’s head or neck.

When Is A Crackback Block Illegal?

Crackback blocks are illegal when executed above the shoulders, below the waist, or on a player’s back. There are several reasons why crackback blocks are illegal when executed in these areas. 

First, this type of block can cause serious neck and spine injuries. When executing a crackback block, one often does so with great force. It can lead to concussions and other head injuries. Plus, it can result in internal organ damage. Finally, it can cause broken bones and other serious injuries.

Even if executing the block in the required body sections, you may still perform an illegal crackback. Moving parallel to or toward your end zone while performing a crackback is unacceptable.

What Is The Penalty For Crackback?

The crackback rule prohibits a player from blindsiding an opponent by attacking them from behind, above the shoulders, or under the waist. This hit can be dangerous and can critically injure another player.

The penalty for a crackback is 15 yards. This strike is a significant penalty because it usually results in the offensive team losing yardage and having to punt the ball away.

Sometimes, the referee may deem the hit particularly dangerous or to be targeting the opponent’s head or neck area. In that case, the offending player gets ejected from the game and/or suspended for the next game’s starting half.

The crackback rule is in place to protect players from dangerous hits. It’s important to remember that football is a physical game, and injuries are a part of the game. However, players should be aware of the rules and avoid hits that could injure another player.

What Is The Penalty Signal For Crackback?

Because an illegitimate crackback block is a personal foul, the referee indicates the foul call before signaling the incorrect crackback block. To indicate a personal foul, the ref raises their left arm over their head and strikes it with their right wrist.

The referee signals a penalty for an illegal crackback by raising their right hand. He extends the right hand with the palm facing out, stretches their arm laterally, and turns it against his thigh.

What Are Illegal Blocks in Football?

Illegal blocks in football refer to any type of blocking done in a manner that isn’t within the game’s rules. These can include using your hands or arms to block someone or even tripping an opponent. 

defense stopped by offensive team from getting the ball

Illegal blocks can result in a penalty getting called on the offender. Such penalties often swing the momentum of a game. Typical illegal blocks include

  • Holding – when a player excessively grasps an opponent’s jersey to try to stop him. It also happens when hands move outside the defender’s body framework during a block. Holding attracts a ten-yard penalty.
  • Clipping – when a player hits an opponent from behind, usually around the knees. Clipping is a fifteen-yard penalty.
  • A block in the back – when an offensive player hits a defender in the back above his waist. A block in the back is a ten-yard penalty.
  • Hands to the face – when a player hits an opponent in the face or helmet. Hands to the face is a ten- to fifteen-yard penalty, depending on the severity of the hit.
  • Chop blocks – when an offensive lineman hits a defender in the back of the legs while he engages with another offensive lineman. Chop blocks are a fifteen-yard penalty.

What Is A Peel-Back Block?

In football, a peel-back block is a blind-side block in which the blocker approaches the opponent from behind or sides. This move occurs when the defender is headed toward their endzone. The peel-back can be a dangerous block, as it’s difficult for the opponent to see it coming and defend against it.

The peel back is acceptable if the blocker’s near shoulder makes contact with the front of his rival’s body.

Since 2005, peel-back blocks beneath the waist and outside the box are unjust. The peel-back block within the box and under the waist has been unlawful in the NFL since 2013. When considered illegal, the block attracts a similar penalty as an illegal crackback: 15 yards.

What Is A Blindside Block?

A blindside block is when a player tackles someone who isn’t seeing them or facing away from the field of play. This contact must use force with the helmets, shoulders, or forearms to qualify as a blindside block.

When a player launches a block while moving parallel to or toward his end line, it’s an unlawful blindside block. There are instances in which players may execute the blindside in a controlled fashion without incurring a penalty. 

Players may, for instance, block another player’s progress using their hands or bodies as long as they do it without force. A blindside block made without force and serves more as a screen receives no penalty.

It’s also not illegal if the defender anticipates interaction or initiates it on their own. If the block happens during a close-line play and the ball hasn’t quite left the area, it isn’t a blindside block.


players are in position waiting for the game to start

What is the Difference Between Crackback and Clipping?

The difference between crackback and clipping is that the former can be legal whereas the latter can’t. An NFL crackback can be legal when performed on the front of the body between the waist and shoulders. However, clipping attacks an opponent underneath their waist, from behind. So, it’s always illegal.

What is the Difference Between a Normal Block and a Crackback Block?

The difference between a normal block and a crackback block is the predictability and force. Crackbacks often catch opponents unawares and involve full-speed running. Normal blocks happen on the scrimmage line with less fast running and are easily noticeable by opponents.

Are Crackbacks Illegal in NFL?

Crackbacks are illegal in the NFL when not executed right. The most significant thing to remember is to make contact between your opponent’s waist and shoulders. The contact should be towards their front and not back.

Moreover, you shouldn’t be moving parallel to or toward your end zone.


In a nutshell, a crackback block is an advantage-seeking move only applicable in the NFL. It’s a block that stops the defensive player from getting to the ball carrier. The wide receiver or the tight end often does the crackback block. The crackback block is crucial because it can help the offense score a touchdown. 

However, when not executed right, it attracts a 15-yard penalty. The offending member may have to stop playing the game if it amounts to targeting.

This technique, while previously allowed in youth and college leagues, is now illegal. The penalty is similar to an illegal NFL crackback at 15 yards.

We hope you now know how to execute the crackback. If you’re seeking other best ways to beat your football opponents, read our guide on defensive positions.

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