ITP Glossary: Deep Comeback Route

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From reach block to Tare concept, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

Deep Comeback Route

The deep comeback route is among the hardest to defend in the NFL. The pattern looks to stress the cornerback by selling a go route, and then creates separation at the cut point as the CB’s momentum pulls him vertically. The receiver tries to establish an outside release at the start of the pattern, then drives vertically upfield for 10-15 yards to sell the go route, before suddenly throttling down and cutting to the sideline, coming back to the QB and creating natural separation from the defender.


In the play art above, Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans is at the top of the frame, running a deep comeback route.

In this example, the Oakland Raiders face a 3rd and 8 against the Cleveland Browns. The offense lines up with 11 offensive personnel, and receiver Amari Cooper lined up as a single receiver split to the left:NFLReviewOaklandPlay1Still1

Look at Cooper’s alignment. He is inside the top of the numbers, in a close split from the left tackle. This is a pre-snap indication to cornerback Joe Haden (#23) that the WR will run a route breaking to the outside. Therefore, before the play the CB alters his alignment, establishing outside leverage at the snap and trying to force the receiver back inside – or at least make any outside cut more difficult.

Cooper is running the deep comeback route. At the start of the route, he needs to sell the CB on the vertical route and establish positioning outside. His goal is to move the defender vertically. When the CB turns and runs, the WR will then throttle down and pivot toward the sideline. This uses a sharp cut and the momentum of the defensive back to create separation. It takes experience – and feel – to know the precise moment that the cornerback is sold on the vertical route, and therefore the best time for the WR to throttle down and angle toward the sideline.

Let’s look at how Cooper runs this route, beginning with the battle at the line of scrimmage:CooperReleaseGif

Notice that Haden’s first step is to the outside with his right foot, maintaining outside leverage. Cooper sees this, and shuffles his feet to the inside. In response, Haden naturally slides his momentum (and helmet) to the inside, just as the WR begins his move back to the outside. The CB then attempts to jam the WR, but Cooper has the angle and freely releases to the outside. Haden stays with the WR, using his right arm as a contact point as the two players accelerate vertically:

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This shows how the route is designed to gain separation at the pivot point. Haden is watching the backfield as he sinks vertically with Cooper, waiting for a sign that a throw is coming or that the WR is going to continue on a vertical route. Just as Haden begins to turn his head away from the backfield, Cooper throttles down and pivots back to his QB. Haden tries to match the break, but his momentum carries him downfield, creating enough separation between receiver and defender for the play to be completed.

But it takes more than separation to complete this pass. The quarterback also needs to deliver an accurate, well-timed pass anticipating the break. From this angle you can see how Carr starts the throw just as Cooper throttles down:

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Putting all the elements together, we can see how the Raiders converted this 3rd-and-long:

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Mark Schofield wrote this entry. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

One thought on “ITP Glossary: Deep Comeback Route

  1. That looks more like a 10 yard curl, I think the comeback is generally deeper, like 18 yards. I know the distinction is minor.

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