ITP Glossary: Seam Route

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From pin-pull sweep to Cover 3, 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.

Seam Route

A seam route is a vertical pass pattern in the middle area of the field (generally ran between the numbers) that is often executed from the tight end position and/or tight slot alignment. Often used to beat zone coverage, the seam route looks to attack the edges or soft spots between two defenders in the secondary. The receiver running the seam route hopes to either split the coverage and find a window for the quarterback to throw him the ball, or draw coverage from multiple zone defenders in order to open up other areas for the remaining receivers on the field.

Cover 3 defenses are often susceptible to seam routes because of the stress it puts on the free safety, especially when there is another vertical route on the opposite side that forces the defender to hold his position that extra half-second.

In this example, the Cincinnati Bengals will run a seam route against the St. Louis Rams defense, which is using Cover 3 in the secondary. Tyler Eifert is deployed as an in line tight end to the right of quarterback Andy Dalton.

The Rams align a safety over Eifert before the snap:

Eifert Route

Eifert is tasked with running the seam route along the right hashmark. Dalton’s initial three step drop is used to move free safety Rodney McLeod away from his assignment in the deep middle. The quarterback turns left and eyes A.J. Green on the fade route throughout the drop, using a pump fake to further draw McLeod’s attention away from his true target. Once he finishes the pump fake, Dalton pivots to the right and locates Eifert, running freely on the seam route, right into the end zone:

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After bursting past the underneath defenders in coverage, the tight end angles his route in between the late-breaking McLeod and cornerback Marcus Roberson, who has too much ground to cover. The 6’6″ Eifert snatches the ball at about the two-yard line and backs into the end zone for the score.

Dual Seam Routes

Against St. Louis, Dalton not only used Eifert, but also backup tight end/H-back Ryan Hewitt to take advantage of seams within the Rams three-deep zone coverages.

On 2nd and 7 from their own 26-yard line at the end of the first quarter, the Bengals use 12 personnel out of the shotgun. The formation has wide receivers outside the numbers, with Eifert and Hewitt aligned tight:

Hewitt Route

The Rams bring big nickel personnel, consisting of three safeties, onto the field, using a 4-2 front with Mark Barron in the box. St. Louis rolls into Cover 3 and utilizes a fire zone blitz that has both linebackers rushing the passer with a defensive tackle dropping into coverage over the short middle:

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The coverage shift plays right into the hands of Cincinnatis double seam pass concept off play-action. Barron initially bites on the fake handoff, false stepping toward center and pulling himself out of position from possibly jamming or re-routing Hewitt toward the inside.

With free safety McLeod rolling to his center field position over the deep middle, Dalton avoids the oncoming pressure and quickly hits Hewitt on the backside seam route, right in the area that was occupied by the defender before the snap. The easy pitch and catch results in a 21-yard gain.

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Brian Filipiak wrote this entry. Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Filipiak

All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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