Football Pass Types

Football Pass Types

In football, the offense’s goal is to score on the defense. For that to happen, it is imperative for the offense to keep the defense guessing what they will do. One way offenses accomplish this is by running a variety of different passing plays. Passing plays are plays where the quarterback throws the ball to a receiver instead of handing it off to the running back. Pass types are the different variations of passes used on passing plays.

Pass types can differ based on the distance, purpose, and speed of the routes run by the receivers. By reading this article, you’ll get to know some passing plays and better understand how the passing game works in football.

List of Football Pass Types

Below is a list of passing plays in football:

Long Pass

Football Long Pass

The NFL classifies a long or deep pass as one that travels over 20 air yards. Long passes are a standard pass type used to gain lots of yardage on a play.

Hail Mary

Football Hail Mary

A “Hail Mary” is the most well-known type of deep pass. The name of this pass came from famed Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, who threw a huge touchdown pass in the final seconds of the 1975 NFC Divisional Championship to defeat the Minnesota Vikings. Staubach later said of the pass, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary” because throwing the pass was like throwing a prayer. The chances of completing a Hail Mary pass are quite low, which is another reason why the name has stuck, as these passes are so rarely successful that they are considered miraculous when they do succeed. In a Hail Mary situation, the wide receivers all run straight down the field, and the quarterback launches a pass as far as they can, hoping someone can catch it. These passes are typically only used in desperate moments.

Deep Post

Football Deep Post

On a post route, the wide receiver runs straight for a set amount of steps and then cuts in and runs diagonally toward the goal posts for the remainder of the route. Deep post routes are long passing plays in which the receiver travels 15+ yards straight downfield before making their cut inward.

Stop and Go

football stop and go

A stop and go route is an excellent way to fool the opposing defense’s cornerback. The wide receiver starts forward and acts as if they are stopping and turning around for a hook route. Then, the receiver turns back up the field and runs deep to receive a pass. This passing play is especially effective when the defense is in single-man coverage. 

In Pattern

Football In Pattern

An in pattern, also known as a dig, is a shorter pass route run of about 10 yards on average. It starts with the receiver running straight off the line of scrimmage, then cutting at the 90-degree angle towards the middle of the field once they have reached the predetermined number of yards.

Out Pattern

football out pattern

The out pattern is similar to the in pattern, except the receiver turns 90 degrees out towards the sideline instead of towards the middle of the field.


football fade

Fades are mostly used in the back of the end zone to tall receivers. The passing pattern starts straight, but the receiver drifts towards the sideline. It resembles a post route, but towards the sideline rather than the middle of the field.

Short Pass

Football Short Pass

Short passes travel very fewer than 20 yards, and their primary focus is speed.

Screen Pass

Football Bubble Screen

Instead of going out for a pass, the receiver simply turns towards the quarterback and catches the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage. Blockers will attempt to create a path for the receiver to run through after catching the ball.

Button Hook

football button hook

A button hook or comeback pattern involves the receiver running a specific number of steps forward and then hooking back toward the quarterback to receive the ball. This route is also known as a hitch when it is done over a shorter number of yards. 

Slant Route

football slant route

Slants are fast-hitting and are a good way of picking up some quick yards. The wide receiver cuts right off the line of scrimmage and runs diagonally towards the middle of the field, quickly receiving the ball from the quarterback.

Play Action

Football Play Action

Play action can be applied to any of the previously mentioned pass types; it enhances the effect of a pass. Play action is a fake handoff to set up the pass.

Lateral Pass

football backward pass rules

A lateral pass in football is a pass that goes laterally, or sideways, relative to the field of play. A lateral pass can also go backward, commonly referred to as a backward lateral. Lateral passes are typically only used when time is expiring, and the offensive team needs a touchdown to tie or win the game, as they are harder to throw and receive.


Why do football teams use passing patterns?

Football teams use passing patterns to keep a variety of plays going throughout the game. If they did not use patterns, they would become predictable, and their opponent would be able to adjust and defeat them easily. With a variety of passing patterns, the team can remain less predictable and make more successful passes and runs.

What is the hardest type of pass to complete in football?

The hardest and most unpredictable type of pass to complete is a hail mary pass. This pass is a long throw down the field that could end in an amazing touchdown, an incompletion, or even worse, an interception. Often, this is a last-ditch effort to get the ball down the field, and teams are willing to make the sacrifice for the chance that it might work.

What is the easiest type of pass to complete in football?

The easiest type of pass to complete in football is typically the slant route. These passes tend to cover short distances and position receivers directly in front of the quarterback. Subsequently, slant passes do not require much arm strength and do not require quarterbacks to pivot or change their line of sight during the play.

What is the most effective football pass play?

The most effective pass play depends on the scheme in which the defense lines up. For example, the most effective passing play against a cover 0 defense is a single receiver running a deep cross up the middle, whereas a shallow cross paired with a dig route is most effective against a cover 6 defense. Recognizing defensive schemes and calling the correct passing plays against them is a major part of what makes elite quarterbacks and game-winning offensive coordinators.

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