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What Is a Pancake Block in Football?

author image Steve Silverman
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.
What Is a Pancake Block in Football?
Football players are on the field. Photo Credit Bill Grove/iStock/Getty Images

No matter how talented your are as a running back in football, you won't be able to help your team much if the offensive line doesn't open holes along the line of scrimmage for you to exploit. When blocking for the running game, offensive linemen have to be very aggressive to knock defensive linemen and linebackers backwards or flat on their back.

Blocking to Win

The pancake block is a term that is used by offensive line coach and offensive linemen in football to describe a block that leaves a defensive player flat on his back as the running back goes through the hole. It represents a dominating victory by the offensive lineman over the defensive lineman or linebacker in order to open a sizable hole for the running back to exploit.

Gift From the Pros

A pancake block is not an official statistic in high school, college or professional football. The term was first used by the Pittsburgh Panthers to describe All-America offensive tackle Bill Fralic's blocking prowess in 1983 and '84. As Fralic's propensity for knocking opponents onto their back became known throughout the college football world, Pittsburgh's coaching staff counted the number of times Fralic registered these type of blocks in a given game. The Pittsburgh media relations department labeled these blocks as "pancakes" and the term stuck. Nebraska started to use the term in association with its offensive line. When Ohio State offensive lineman Orlando Pace became the dominant blocker in the Big Ten, the team's media relations department sent out magnetic pancakes to remind college football award voters of Pace's remarkable talent.

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Statistical Acclaim

Football is often statistically driven. Quarterbacks are lionized by their yardage totals and touchdown passes. Running backs are known for how much yardage they run and the average yards gained per attempt. Receivers are revered for their reception total. Offensive linemen have no official stats. As a result, publicizing the number of pancake blocks an offensive lineman records gives those underpublicized players a chance for some recognition.

Making it Happen

The pancake block is always achieved on running plays. Offensive linemen with power, speed, agility and aggressiveness have a chance to put their opponent flat on their back. At the snap of the ball, the offensive lineman must fire out of his stance and hit the defensive lineman with a hard two-hand punch to the upper body. This must knock the defensive lineman off balance so that the offensive lineman can drive with his legs and put his opponent on the ground.

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