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A route or pass pattern is a path or pattern that a receiver, back or tight end in American football runs when the play starts to get open for a forward pass. This article provides the most common routes used in all levels of American football. As every system has different names for each route, alternative names are listed.

Short routes (0 to 5 yards)[edit]

Short routes are routes that develop very quickly, and provide the quarterback with a quick passing option. The following routes rely heavily on excellent timing between the quarterback and the receiver so defenders often will disrupt their assignment by utilizing bump and run coverage, when they line up directly in front of a wide receiver and makes contact with them as soon as the ball is snapped to rattle them.

Wide receiver / Tight end[edit]

  • Drag / In — receiver takes a few steps and cuts 90°, running parallel to the line of scrimmage.
  • Out — similar to the Drag route, but instead of running towards the center, the receiver runs 'out', towards the out-of-bounds area.
  • Slant — receiver takes a few steps and cuts 45° towards the center of the field.
  • Wheel — The receiver will run in the back field parallel to the LOS, and then make a soft (non-abrupt) turn up-field.


  • Dig — receiver runs straight up the field for a few yards and take a 45 degree angle back towards the quarterback.
  • Curl — receiver runs straight up the field a few yards and abruptly turns his body towards the quarterback.
  • Fade — often used when within 10 yards of the endzone. Receiver runs a few yards upfield, fakes to the inside of the field then suddenly breaks outside towards a corner of the endzone, looking for a high-arching ball from the quarterback.

A Flat route is named after the area of the field where it takes place. During a typical play, due to the routes of other receivers, there is an area of the field that is vacated. This area known as the "flats" is typically from the hash marks to the sideline and from the line of scrimmage to 3-5 yards downfield. The route itself may be executed several ways. The most common is also known as the arrow. This consists of a receiver lining up near the offensive tackle and then taking a short angled path directly to this area. Running backs often will execute a special flat route that involves them running toward the sideline without the ball from the backfield and then turning upfield as a receiver. This is often referred to as a swing route.

Intermediate routes (5 to 15 yards)[edit]

Deep routes (5 to 15 yards)[edit]

Deep routes are dependent on the quarterback's arm strength, ability to place the ball in front of the receiver, and the amount of time his offensive line gives him to throw.

  • Deepost — receiver runs 7-10 yards straight down the field, then cuts toward the middle of the field, towards the goal posts in the endzone.
  • Fly / Go / Streak — receiver runs straight upfield towards the endzone, attempting to outrun his defender and get behind the safeties.

List of common routes[edit]

<nowiki> Category:American football plays