Forward pass

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In several forms of football a forward pass is when the ball is thrown in the direction that the offensive team is trying to move, towards the defensive team's goal line. The forward pass is one of main distinguishers between gridiron football (American football and Canadian football) in which the play is legal and widespread, and rugby football (union and league) from which the North American games evolved, in which the play is illegal.

In goal sports such as association football (soccer) and ice hockey, the forward pass is used so ubiquitously that it is not thought of as a distinct kind of play at all. In these sports, the concept of offside is used to regulate who can be in front of the play or be nearest to the goal. However, this has not always been the case. Some earlier incarnations of football allowed unlimited forward passing, while others had strict offsides rules similar to rugby. Rules regarding the forward pass in American football were standardized in 1863. Ice hockey, by contrast, did not adopt the forward pass until the 1930s.

The development of the forward pass in American football shows how the game has evolved from its rugby roots into the distinctive game it is today. Illegal and experimental forward passes had been attempted as early as 1876, but the first legal forward pass in American football took place in 1906, after a change in rules. Another change in rules occurred on January 18, 1951, which established that no center, tackle, or guard could receive a forward pass. Today, the only linemen who can receive a forward pass are the tight ends and, if they report eligible prior to the snap, the offensive tackle, The current rules regulate who may throw and who may receive a forward pass, and under what circumstances, as well as how the defensive team may try to prevent a pass from being completed. The primary pass thrower is the quarterback, and statistical analysis is used to determine a quarterback's success rate at passing in various situations, as well as a team's overall success at the "passing game."

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