How Does an Audible in Football Work? (Examples)

Coaches and quarterbacks use audibles to convey play changes and adjustments to their teammates quickly and efficiently.

An audible is a play call change made by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage, based on the defensive alignment or other factors.

Below we look in detail how an audible in football works, using examples and case studies.

Key Takeaways of How an Audible Works

In football, an audible is a strategic tool where the quarterback changes the original play call at the line of scrimmage based on the defense’s alignment.

This allows the offense to adapt and exploit defensive weaknesses, enhancing their chances of success.

Examples of audible commands include:

  • Black Bear
  • Kill, Kill
  • Blue 42
  • Apple, Apple, Go

The Purpose of an Audible

An audible is used to change the original play call based on the pre-snap read of the defense.

The quarterback, who is responsible for leading the offense, has the authority to change the play at the line of scrimmage if he believes it will be more effective against the defensive alignment.

The purpose of an audible is to exploit weaknesses in the defense or to take advantage of favorable matchups.


Let’s say the offense initially called a running play to the right side.

However, the quarterback notices that the defense has stacked the box with defenders, making it difficult for the running back to find running lanes.

In this situation, the quarterback may decide to audible to a pass play, where the receivers have a better chance of getting open against a less crowded secondary.

The Audible Process

The audible process involves several steps, from recognizing the need for an audible to communicating the change to the rest of the offense.

Let’s break down each step:

1. Pre-Snap Read

Before the ball is snapped, the quarterback surveys the defensive alignment and identifies any potential weaknesses or advantageous matchups.

This includes analyzing the positioning of the defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs.

2. Recognizing the Need for an Audible

Based on the pre-snap read, the quarterback determines if the original play call needs to be changed.

This decision is typically made within a few seconds, as the play clock is ticking down.

3. Communication

Once the quarterback decides to audible, he must communicate the change to the rest of the offense.

This is done through a combination of hand signals, verbal cues, and pre-determined code words.

The offensive linemen, receivers, and running backs must all be on the same page to execute the new play effectively.

4. Adjustments by the Offense

After the audible is called, the offense adjusts their positioning and assignments accordingly.

This may involve changing blocking assignments for the offensive linemen, adjusting routes for the receivers, or altering the running back’s path.

5. Snap and Execution

Once the offense is set and ready, the center snaps the ball to the quarterback, who then executes the new play.

The success of the audible depends on the quarterback’s ability to make quick decisions, the communication within the offense, and the execution of the new play by all players involved.

Examples of Audible Calls

Here are some examples of audible calls:

  1. Omaha: Popularized by Peyton Manning, this call often signaled a change in the snap count or indicated the end of an audible sequence.
  2. Blue 42: The colors and numbers don’t necessarily have a universal meaning and can vary by team. They might indicate a specific route for a receiver or a type of run play.
  3. Kill, Kill: This might mean the quarterback is “killing” the first play call in favor of a second one.
  4. Liz/Rita: These could be code for direction, with “Liz” indicating a play going to the left and “Rita” signaling a play going to the right.
  5. Apple, Apple, Go: This could be a signal to switch to a predetermined play, with “Go” indicating the snap count.
  6. Black Bear: Teams often use names of animals, states, or cities to indicate specific plays or formations. The actual meaning would be known only to the team.
  7. X Slant: This might indicate a slant route for the X receiver.
  8. Tango: Could be a code for a specific blocking scheme or a type of defensive blitz.
  9. Check, Check: This might be used by the quarterback to alert the offense that he’s about to call an audible based on what he’s seeing from the defense.
  10. Hot Route: This signals a change in the route for a specific receiver based on the defensive coverage.

It’s important to note that these are just examples, and the actual meanings can vary widely based on the team, system, and even the specific game.

Teams often change their audible calls from game to game to prevent opponents from deciphering their meanings.

How do Quarterbacks audible?

Case Study: Peyton Manning’s Audibles

Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, was known for his exceptional ability to read defenses and make audibles at the line of scrimmage.

His audibles became so famous that they were often referred to as “Omaha” calls.

Let’s take a closer look at how Manning utilized audibles to his advantage.


During his time with the Denver Broncos, Manning would often use audibles to change the play based on the defensive alignment.

One of his most famous audibles was the “Omaha” call, which became a catchphrase associated with his audibling prowess.

The “Omaha” call was used to signal a change in the snap count or to alert the offense of an impending play change.

Manning’s ability to read defenses and make audibles allowed him to exploit weaknesses in the defense and put his offense in the best position to succeed.

His audibles often resulted in big plays and touchdowns, showcasing the effectiveness of this strategic tool in football.

Funniest QB Audibles

Q&A – How Does an Audible in Football Work? (Example)

1. What is an audible in football?

An audible in football is a play call change made by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage, based on the defensive alignment or other factors.

2. Who can call an audible?

The quarterback is typically the only player on the offense who has the authority to call an audible.

3. How does the quarterback decide when to audible?

The quarterback decides to audible based on the pre-snap read of the defense.

If he identifies a weakness or advantageous matchup, he may choose to change the play.

4. How does the quarterback communicate the audible to the rest of the offense?

The quarterback communicates the audible through hand signals, verbal cues, and pre-determined code words that are understood by the rest of the offense.

5. Can audibles be used in both running and passing plays?

Yes, audibles can be used to change both running and passing plays, depending on the situation and the defensive alignment.

6. Are audibles used in every football game?

Audibles are not used in every play or every game.

They are typically employed in situations where the quarterback believes a change in the play call will be more effective.

7. Can audibles be called multiple times in a single play?

No, once an audible is called and the offense is set, the play is executed based on the new call.

Additional changes can only be made before the snap.

8. Do audibles always result in successful plays?

No, the success of an audible depends on various factors, including the quarterback’s decision-making, the communication within the offense, and the execution of the new play by all players involved.

9. Are audibles only used in professional football?

No, audibles are used at all levels of football, from youth leagues to college and professional games.

10. Can the defense anticipate and counter an audible?

Yes, defenses can try to anticipate audibles by disguising their intentions or changing their alignment just before the snap.

This adds another layer of strategy to the game.

11. Are audibles more commonly used in certain offensive systems?

Audibles can be used in any offensive system, but they may be more prevalent in systems that rely heavily on the quarterback’s decision-making and pre-snap reads.

12. How do audibles impact the pace of the game?

Audibles can slow down the pace of the game, as the offense takes time to communicate and adjust their play based on the audible call.

However, they can also be used to catch the defense off guard and create quick scoring opportunities.

13. Can audibles be used to deceive the defense?

Yes, audibles can be used as a form of deception to confuse the defense.

The quarterback may call an audible to make the defense believe a certain play is coming, only to execute a different play.

14. Are audibles more effective in certain game situations?

Audibles can be particularly effective in critical game situations, such as third downs or in the red zone, where the outcome of the play can have a significant impact on the game’s outcome.

15. How do audibles contribute to a quarterback’s overall performance?

Audibles are an essential tool for quarterbacks, as they allow them to adapt to the defense and make strategic decisions on the field.

A quarterback’s ability to effectively use audibles can greatly enhance their performance and the success of the offense.


Audibles play a crucial role in football, allowing quarterbacks to adapt to the defense and make strategic play call changes at the line of scrimmage.

Through pre-snap reads and effective communication, quarterbacks can exploit weaknesses in the defense and put their offense in the best position to succeed.

Examples like Peyton Manning’s audibles demonstrate the impact and effectiveness of this strategic tool.

Understanding how audibles work provides insights into the game and the decision-making process of quarterbacks.

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