One of the more common trick play
s in American football
In a standard offensive formation, the quarterback will line up directly behind center to receive the snap that starts play from scrimmage; behind him will be one or two running backs, the first called either the halfback or tailback depending on the OC's preferred terminology, and the optional second as the fullback. The fullback is generally responsible for blocking; the tailback does most of the running with the ball.
On a running play, the quarterback takes the center snap, drops back as the TB advances and hands the ball off to the tailback about 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage as the offensive line attempts to make a hole for the TB to run through. The flea-flicker starts out this way, in an effort to convince the defense to push up and stop the run, abandoning pass coverage responsibilities. The flea-flicker, though, is actually a pass play; as the tailback approaches the line of scrimmage, he laterals back to the QB (who is 7-10 yards behind the line at this point), goes to the hole he was expected to run through, and assumes blocking responsibilities. The quarterback, now with the ball again, tries to find an open receiver for a forward pass.
The main place a flea-flicker can break down is the offensive line; if the OL doesn't hold back the rush or blitz, that delayed lateral by the TB may be interfered with and a live ball left on the ground. If something like that happens, it's the tailback's responsibility to "eat the ball" -- just hold on to it, try to run and take the 1-2 yard loss rather than risking the toss to the QB.