Power sweep

What is the definition of Power Sweep in American Football?

The power sweep is a fundamental yet highly effective running play in American football. It involves a running back taking a pitch or handoff from the quarterback and running parallel to the line of scrimmage, with offensive linemen and a fullback getting in front of him to block defenders before the running back turns upfield. The play is designed to provide maximum blocking support while exploiting the edges of the defensive line, leading to big gains on the ground.

This classic play has been a staple in challenging defenses for years, and it’s essential for fans to understand its techniques and executions. The power sweep can be successful due to the coordination of offensive linemen and fullbacks in creating a running lane for the ball carrier, as well as the running back’s ability to read the blocking and make decisive cuts upfield. Properly executed, the power sweep requires precise timing and teamwork from the entire offensive unit, potentially resulting in significant yardage gains and, often, touchdowns.

Key Takeaways

  • Power sweep is a strategic running play relying on offensive linemen and fullback blocking
  • Successful execution demands precise timing and teamwork from the offense
  • The play is historically significant due to famous teams and coaches utilizing it effectively

Power Sweep Overview

A power sweep is a strategic running play in American football that involves a running back moving parallel to the line of scrimmage and then turning upfield behind lead blockers. This play is particularly effective around either end of the offensive line, with both guards pulling to block and create room for the running back.

The power sweep gained popularity through the coaching of Vince Lombardi, who implemented it successfully with the Green Bay Packers. Known as the “Packers sweep” or “Lombardi sweep,” this play became a staple of the team’s offense and helped them achieve multiple championships.

The basic setup in a power sweep requires the offensive linemen and fullback to move quickly and position themselves in front of the running back, thus blocking any potential defenders in their path. The running back then uses their speed and agility to follow these lead blockers, turning upfield at the right moment to gain yardage.

Executing a power sweep well requires precise timing, coordination, and teamwork among the offensive players. This play can be advantageous because it forces the defense to spread out along the line of scrimmage, potentially creating openings for significant gains. Additionally, the power sweep can serve as an effective tool to wear down the opposing defensive line over the course of a game.

In summary, the power sweep is a versatile and powerful play in American football, made famous by legendary coach Vince Lombardi with the Green Bay Packers. When executed correctly, it can create opportunities for the offense to advance the ball and maintain control of the game.

Key Components

Offensive Line

The offensive line plays a crucial role in a power sweep. Their primary responsibility is to create running lanes for the running back by engaging defenders and preventing them from making tackles. In a power sweep, the guards are particularly essential as they pull from their original position and move to the outside to lead block for the runner. Tackles and the center also contribute by blocking down on the defensive linemen, thus enabling the guards and fullback to get in front of the running back.

Running Backs

In a power sweep, the running back is responsible for carrying the ball parallel to the line of scrimmage. They must exhibit patience and vision to allow their blockers to engage defenders and create open running lanes. After receiving the pitch or handoff from the quarterback, the running back quickly moves to the outside, keeping an eye on their blockers. Once the blocks are engaged and a clear path is established, the running back turns upfield for a potential big gain.

Blocking Techniques

Several blocking techniques are employed in a power sweep to ensure its success. The key components of the blocking scheme include:

  • Double team at the point of attack: This technique involves two offensive linemen, usually the tackle and the guard, working together to block a single defender. This creates a powerful force upfront that helps in opening a running lane.
  • Kick out block: The kick out block is performed by an offensive guard or fullback, who targets the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL), usually a defensive end or an outside linebacker. This block is crucial because it seals the edge and gives the running back the necessary room to advance upfield.
  • Lead block: The lead block is provided by the pulling guard or fullback, who moves ahead of the running back to engage the first unblocked defender. This block offers additional reinforcement in the running lane and helps maintain forward momentum for the runner.

By utilizing these key components, the power sweep can become an effective and dynamic play in any American football team’s arsenal.

Execution of the Power Sweep

The power sweep is a prominent running play in American football, designed to exploit the defense on the edge of the offensive line. The play involves the running back taking a pitch or handoff from the quarterback and running parallel to the line of scrimmage. As the running back progresses, offensive linemen, particularly the guards, and the fullback set up blocks against defenders to create a path for the runner to turn upfield.

The success of the power sweep depends on the coordination between the offensive linemen and the running back. In many cases, both guards will “pull” from their initial position and lead the way for the ball carrier, using their speed and strength to engage and block the defenders. This tactic allows the running back to scan the field for potential gaps in the defense, which they can quickly exploit by accelerating through the created lane.

Another essential aspect of the power sweep is the use of motion pre-snap. To keep the defense guessing, coaches may use a wide receiver in motion, known as the jet sweep or fly sweep. By positioning the wide receiver on the side away from the intended play, the offense can create confusion and draw additional defenders away from the actual point of attack.

Timing and synchronization are crucial for the power sweep’s success. The quarterback must time the handoff or pitch to the running back with precision, so the runner can hit the line with enough speed to exploit any gaps before they close. Furthermore, the pulling guards must execute their blocks effectively to create room for the running back.

In conclusion, the power sweep is a time-tested and effective running play in American football. When executed correctly, it demonstrates the importance of teamwork, timing, and synchronization on the field and can lead to significant gains or even touchdowns for the offense.

Defensive Strategies Against Power Sweep

A power sweep is a common running play in American football where the offense seeks to create space for the ball carrier by utilizing pulling linemen and lead blockers to clear a path outside. Defending against the power sweep requires proper alignment, discipline, and execution by the defense.

One strategy to defend against the power sweep is to employ a 5-3 defensive formation, which consists of five linemen and three linebackers. This formation aims to outnumber the blockers at the point of attack, making it harder for the offense to create a clean running lane. Maintaining gap integrity and ensuring that each defender is responsible for one gap can help clog the running lanes and disrupt the power sweep.

Another defensive strategy is to use aggressive nose tackles (NT) and defensive tackles (DT) to penetrate the backfield and disrupt the pulling guards. This can create chaos in the blocking scheme, making it difficult for the offense to execute the power sweep as intended. Additionally, using well-timed blitzes in the running lanes can catch the offense off-guard and stop the ball carrier for a loss of yards.

Defensive ends and outside linebackers play key roles in slowing down or stopping the power sweep. They need to set the edge by containing the play and forcing the ball carrier to cut back inside where the rest of the defense can assist with the tackle. Proper pursuit angles and fast reaction times from linebackers to recognize the power sweep and fill the gaps can mitigate the big-play potential of this running play.

Lastly, the defensive secondary must stay disciplined in their coverage assignments, as the offense may try to capitalize on an overcommitting defense with a play-action pass. By staying committed to their coverage roles, the secondary can effectively defend against both potential threats.

In summary, defending against the power sweep in American football involves strategic defensive formations, disciplined gap control, aggressive line penetration, strong edge setting, and disciplined secondary coverage. By executing these strategies effectively, a defense can limit the success of the power sweep and maintain control of the game.

Famous Power Sweep Plays and Teams

The power sweep is a classic and effective running play in American football. In its simplest form, a back takes a handoff and runs parallel to the line of scrimmage before turning upfield behind lead blockers. Throughout the history of the sport, several teams and coaches have utilized power sweep plays to great success, carving out a legacy for themselves and their franchise.

One of the most famous power sweep plays comes from the Green Bay Packers, who popularized the “Packers sweep” under the legendary coach Vince Lombardi. This play, also known as the Lombardi sweep, became a cornerstone of the Packers’ offensive strategy in the 1960s and helped them win multiple championships. In this play, the tight end lined up nine feet outside the right tackle, assisting the ball carrier to reach the edge and then execute an inside-out block, allowing the runner to break free upfield.

Having a solid offensive line was one of the keys to executing the power sweep effectively. The Packers, for instance, were blessed with excellent linemen like Jerry Kramer, who played a significant role in the success of their power sweep plays. Kramer, alongside other powerful offensive players, helped bring Lombardi’s vision to life on the field, making the Packers synonymous with the power sweep play.

Another noteworthy power play from football history is the Power-O and Counter Trey. These technical run plays, known simply as Power and Counter, form the foundation of many professional and college football running schemes. In the Power-O play, offensive linemen pull in unison to one side, creating a formidable blocking wall. Meanwhile, in the Counter Trey, the quarterback fakes a handoff to lure the defense in one direction, before giving the ball to the running back heading to the opposite side. Both plays, when executed well, create space for the running back to break through the defense, advancing the ball and increasing the team’s chances to score.

In conclusion, the power sweep plays and variations such as the Packers sweep, Power-O, and Counter Trey have been a significant part of American football’s history. The successful execution of these plays has cemented the legacy of teams like the Green Bay Packers and energized offenses across all levels of the sport.


A power sweep is a strategic running play in American football that involves a running back taking a pitch or handoff from the quarterback and running parallel to the line of scrimmage. The purpose of this play is to allow offensive linemen and fullback to create a solid wall of blockers before the running back turns upfield. This maneuver is designed to provide the offensive team with a numbers advantage over the defense, allowing for greater gains in yardage.

One key aspect of the power sweep is the critical role of both guards, who pull from their initial positions and proceed to block for the running back. These guards help clear a path for the running back, allowing them to make the most of their speed, agility, and vision to find open lanes and advance down the field.

There are variations of the sweep, such as the Packers sweep, which is named after the Green Bay Packers due to their effective use of the play during the Vince Lombardi era. This variation adds additional nuances to the standard sweep play, further demonstrating the versatility and potential for success that this type of running play offers to an offensive team.

In summary, the power sweep remains an essential and effective running play in American football. Its ability to create openings for the running back, while leveraging the agility and strength of offensive linemen, allows teams to advance down the field and put pressure on the opposing defense. By understanding the intricacies of this play, both coaches and players can better execute it on the field, ultimately leading to more successful offensive drives and, potentially, more victories.