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Trend to watch: Play-action passing on first down

Here’s a look at league-wide percentages of passing plays called on first down over the last five seasons (listed in order from 2016 to 2020): 49.9, 47.1, 50.1, 48.1 and 49.7. Now, here’s the breakdown of play-action rates on first down during that same span: 30.5, 34.9, 35.7, 36.8 and 37.7. While passing on first down has been relatively steady over the last half-decade, the utilization of play-action on first down has increased. The trend makes sense with defenses having to honor both the pass and the run on first down, so

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