Football Vertical Routes

What is a Vertical Route in Football?

In football, a vertical route is a long, straight receiver route run directly downfield. Also known as a vertical stretch, fly route, go route, or streak route, a vertical route is similar to the post route, except instead of cutting towards the goal posts, the receiver continues forward without cutting.

The Hail Mary, a play that is a last-ditch effort by a team to score a touchdown, consists of all of the wide receivers on the field running a vertical stretch route. Oftentimes on vertical routes, a tight end will be on the field. Depending on the situation, the tight end can block for the quarterback, run a quick route as a “dump-off” receiver, or run a vertical route to spread out the defense.

Vertical Stretch Strategy

The vertical passing game isn’t used very often in the NFL as they’re not very effective. However, this is a viable strategy in college football. The focal point of the vertical stretch is fast wide receivers who are able to outrun their defenders. The vertical passing game must employ a strong-armed quarterback who is able to get the ball downfield to the receivers, as well as good blocking linemen to keep the quarterback safe before the throw. A receiving running back is also very useful as a quick dump-off receiver.

In this strategy, not every play is a vertical route. However, most passing plays do emphasize having at least one receiver go on the vertical route to spread out the defensive secondary. It is very important to have a lot of depth at wide receiver when running a vertical passing game, as running long routes can quickly tire out receivers. If too many speedy players become injured, a quick shake-up in strategy will be necessary for the offense to succeed.