The Dive and Zone Play Explained

Football is a confusing sport to those who were not born in the American culture of the sport. Through my travels around the globe, I have seen a wide variety of “interpretations” of football plays. Formations and strategies can be very specific or generic depending on a team’s preference, but the majority of football plays themselves can be explained very simply. Today, I’ll explain the most basic play in football: THE DIVE, and it’s younger cousin: THE ZONE.




This play has many different names & variations, but at its core it is a simple concept: Short yardage run play.  In the Dive play the ball carrier runs through a gap created by the offensive lineman. This gap is created in between the guard and center or the guard and tackle area. Normally the offensive linemen create this gap by using a double team block against a specified defender. The Iso variation of this play refers to the isolation of the linebacker to be blocked by the offensive fullback.

**Variations: Iso, Plunge, Blast, Smash, Lead

I Formation, Dive

Singleback Formation, Dive


The Zone is both an inside and outside running play. The running back runs towards the play side guard and reads the lineman blocks to determine where to run the ball. The offensive linemen will use zone blocking. Zone blocking means the lineman block the defensive lineman nearest to them in the direction of the play called (i.e. zone right means lineman block the nearest lineman to their right). If there is no defensive lineman immediate to them, the offensive linemen will continue up field to block the nearest linebacker in the direction of the play called. The running back runs the ball through lanes created by the zone blocking. This play doesn’t have a specified gap as it varies depending on the defensive alignment and blocks made by the offensive lineman.

**Variations: Off tackle, Slant, Stretch

Shotgun Formation, Zone

I Formation, Zone


The stretch is essentially the same blocking scheme as the Zone play. The difference in this play is the aiming point of the running back. The running back will aim toward the outside of the play side tackle. The running back reads the linemen blocks to determine when to turn the play up field.

I Formation, Stretch

Shotgun Formation, Stretch








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