Football Passing Play Series: The Smash Route or Smash Concept


The smash route in football, better known as the smash concept or smash pattern in football, is pass pattern designed to attack the defense vertically. When used as a full field concept, rather than a two man half field concept, it becomes both a horizontal and vertical pass pattern. The smash route or smash pattern is one of the most utilized football passing plays.

Defining The Smash Route or Smash Concept

We say the smash route pattern is a vertical pass pattern because it stretches the defense between the corner and safety mainly. When a single route (like a drag, in or dig) stretches from the backside or the backfield, it becomes a horizontal stretch as well. This is because your attacking more areas of the defense (specifically the hook to curl zone). This defender can usually help defend the hook or curl, but with the drag coming across, he can only occupy one or the other. If the drag route identifies a hole in the zone, he should slow down and settle in that area for the QB. He should keep moving however.

smash route smash concept 2x1 slot i formationThe #1 receiver runs a quick hitch route. A number of people run this hitch route differently, sometimes even depending on where they are on the field. The idea is the same though, someone to occupy the flat with the #1 receiver. I like to have the receiver try to force an outside release because that tends to scare clouded corners. This makes them forget about sinking with the #2 receiver’s vertical route. By attacking the corner, we make his life harder. In the worst case scenario, we get an easier outside release and a fairly easy catch.

The #2 receiver should work vertically to a distance of 10-12 yards before breaking to the corner (ironically, this is called a corner route). For added enhancement, if this player is athletic, a double move at the top of the route can be effective. One step or even a head jab to the post can get a safety flat footed. This player needs to be athletic to do this however. If the safety fails to fall inside, he should be prepared for the throw to be flatter from the QB in-case the corner doesn’t sink, almost like a dig route, but to the outside. It is up to the receiver to find the ball on the smash route and adjust his route.

To make the play most effective, someone should occupy the hook to curl or curl to flat defender. That could be a play action pass, or a receiver from the backside.

Formations for the Smash Route or Smash Concept

The smash route can be run from many types of formations. For instance, the Smash route can be run from 2×1 receiver 21 personnel sets, like the I formation. The smash concept can be run from 2×2 receiver 11, 10 and 12 personnel sets as well. Finally, the most interesting use, in my opinion, is running the smash route out of trips sets, regardless of the personnel and specific variation. For those curious, trips would be a 3×1 receiver set and potentially a 10, 11 or 12 personnel set.

Trips Variations for the Smash Route or Smash Concept

When running the smash route out of trips sets, you can do it a number of ways. My favorite is a vertical stretch with the #3 receiver, especially if that player is an athletic tight end who is closed to the trips side, however it can be run out of any of these sets.

Smash Route or Smash Concept out of 2x1

Smash Route out of 2×1

The #1 and #2 receiver would follow their same basic rules for the normal smash route concept, a hitch and a corner respectively.

The #3 receiver can run a go or streak route. He should use his hands and not get knocked off his route. He should fight pressure with anticipated pressure and stay in the seam. If the middle of the field is open, he should take that area and bend inside slightly. If the middle of the field is closed, he should lock eyes with the middle third defender and force him to be covered. If the tight end is an athletic target, or a tall target, this could be a great mismatch.

QB Reads on the Smash Route or Smash Concept

I like the R4 system. I would look for pre-snap “caps” to accelerate the read. If any receiver is re-routed, I would accelerate the read again past that receiver.

The rhythm route would be the #2 receiver. The Read route would be the hitch. Rush route would be the drag.

In the R4 system, two rhythm’s make a read. So for the trips variation, you would go corner as the rhythm, vertical as the read, and hitch as the rush route. Thanks to Coach Thompson and Coach Maddox for the assistance with regards to that.

Conclusions on the Smash Route Or Smash Pattern Football Passing Play

The smash route is a great concept overall. The smash concept is utilized in a variety of forms, plenty of which I have not described here. I encourage you to take a look at other resources as well on the topic.