Hard count (gridiron football)

In gridiron football, the hard count is a strategy used by offenses. It is most frequently used to "convert" on fourth down with less than five yards to go.

The quarterback uses an irregular, accented (thus, the term "hard") cadence for the snap count in the hope that the defense will jump offside.


When used in a fourth down situation if the defense jumps offside it gives the offense the option to gain the five yards needed to convert the first down as a result of the award of the offside penalty yardage.[1]

When used in a fourth down situation if the defense does not go offside, the offense will often either call a time out or take a five-yard penalty for delay of game and punt the ball away.

If the defense jumps offside, but the offense begins their play, it is designated as a "free play" (as in, there are no negative consequences to the offense on the play, with the exception of penalties).

The offense may choose to use the hard count throughout the game, in an attempt to confuse the defense, and get them to play more conservatively.

The offense's own offensive line might react to the hard count, resulting in a false start offensive infraction.[2]


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