A Stunt in Football - Definition and Explanation

defense tackles quarterback
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A stunt is a pass-rushing maneuver by two or more defensive players in which they alter their course to the quarterback by temporarily switching roles, hoping to confuse the offensive linemen and get to the quarterback. There are several different varieties of stunts, but essentially, a stunt is any change in the path taken by defenders in attempt to reach the quarterback and sack him.

Defenders utilize all sorts of fakes and jukes in order to get past the offensive linemen trying to block them. They will also utilize feigns, and lateral movements prior to the snap to throw the offensive linemen off and get past them. Defenders attack any openings or holes created in the line by stunts in order to get to the quarterback.


The main purpose of a stunt is to confuse the blockers on the offensive line in order to improve the pass rush. Stunts are usually employed on passing downs in an attempt to sack the quarterback.


The play is very vulnerable against running plays, as running plays often develop too quickly before the stunt can be completed. If the running back can get past the stunting linemen there is serious big play potential. Thus, most of the time a defenses will not incorporate a stunt if it expects the offense to run a running play.

Another drawback is that stunts can become predictable to an offense throughout the course of a game. After seeing the same stunt several times, quarterbacks are often able to recognize it and audible to a different play, in turn neutralizing the stunt. Thus, defenses often try to disguise their stunts and keep them disguised for absolutely as long as possible before the ball is snapped. Defenses will also try to switch up their stunts frequently and utilize different ones throughout the course of a game.

Stunts are also often employed on field goal attempts, as they have proven to be an effective way to block kicks. By confusing the offensive line blocking the kicker with stunts, defenders are able to slip past the line and get to the kicker before a kick is attempted.

Type of Stunts

There are two common type of stunts. In the first type of stunt, a player who would traditionally pass rush will instead drop back into coverage, and instead a close-by defensive player will pass rush instead. This could work to confuse the defense, as the rush will be coming from a different player, and area than expected.


The other common type of stunt is referred to as “cross-rushing.” Cross-rushing occurs when two defensive players, typically defensive linemen or linebackers, instead of rushing directly forward, cross each other’s path in route to the quarterback. One may circle behind the other in what is called a “loop”, or one may drop back and wait for the other to penetrate and then attack.

Examples: In most stunts, one defensive lineman crosses behind another in hopes of either going unblocked or gaining an advantage on his blocker.