What is an Underneath Pass in Football?
An underneath pass in football refers to a throw to a receiver underneath the linebackers. By definition, an underneath pass is short and quick, meant to give receivers an advantage over slower linebackers who might not be able to keep up with them.
A shallow route is a common underneath pass used by teams to get receivers open for a quick strike from the quarterback. A shallow route involves a receiver taking a single step before cutting across the middle of the field.
Shallow routes can be coupled with other routes in order to get receivers open. The drive concept makes use of this idea, for instance, by employing both a shallow route and a dig route, the latter of which is similar to a shallow route. The cut in a dig route, however, takes place further down the field.
The drive concept calls for the inside receiver running a dig route while the outside receiver runs a shallow route. This will often force a single defensive player, usually a linebacker, to make a decision about who to cover.
When To Use An Underneath Pass
Underneath passes can be effective against both man and zone coverages. The receiver can try to outrun his man in the former or find an open spot in the latter. Additionally, underneath passes are often run specifically against the cover three defense because offenses can stretch the zone out. Once this happens, the middle of the field opens up for underneath passes and other short routes.