(Photo via cbssports.com)
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has utilized a sprint out smash concept for years. The play holds a spot in many Saints fans’ hearts, as it was called on the two-point conversion in their 2010 Super Bowl victory against the Indianapolis Colts.
This play is familiar to many high school coaches, and most probably have it in their arsenal. A diagram of the play is shown below.
Here are a few coaching points that show up on film:
The quarterback is taught to make the throw while on the run.
The Saints will call this concept almost exclusively to the QB’s right, making the throw as easy and routine as possible. When a right-handed quarterback rolls to the right, it makes the quick off-balance throw much easier.
The hitch route is the primary target. Drew Brees will essentially pre-determine the throw to this receiver.
The Saints will place their best receiver on the hitch route.
The ball is always thrown on time. The throw from the quarterback is synced with his footwork.
The offensive line will block the gap to their right.
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This first video shows an example of the concept against the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo plays Cover-3. That’s the easiest coverage to face when you’re running a sprint smash.
The sprint out action makes the throw shorter for the quarterback. It allows him to put a little more “juice” on the throw as well. This prevents the flat defender from undercutting the route in this clip.
The next video shows a clip of the concept used against the Detroit Lions. Even against the two-high safety shell that Detroit is using, the Saints are able to get a 1-on-1 matchup on the outside. When the slot threatens the safety with vertical speed, the safety’s eyes will gravitate toward him.
In every clip, Brees throws the ball off his fifth step. When under center, the first two steps are used to get depth away from the line of scrimmage. These steps are important to give him a clear throwing window without any pressure.
The next two steps are used to set up his upper body to make the throw. Brees gets his shoulder in position to hit the outside hitch route. The last step is when Brees plants his right foot and throws the ball on the run.
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The next clip shows a bunch formation variation. The hitch route adjusts to an out route from the tight split.
With the adjusted out route, the timing of the throw allows the offense for more chances at big plays with this concept. If the receiver is able to make a clean catch well before he gets to the sidelines, he can turn upfield and get yards after the catch.
Teams can also use the play in the deep red zone. Motioning the outside route to a tight alignment gives Brees a free release to the flat. Once again, punctual timing from the quarterback gives the receiver plenty of room to make the catch.
The outside release from the slot receiver allows the flat route to “hide” behind him. This creates the separation that’s needed for the touchdown.
If you have a quarterback who could throw with accuracy on the run and you emphasize the correct timing, this play can be a consistent option to pick up easy yards in the passing game. Even against tight coverage, this holds true. The next video displays how the play works against press coverage.
The Saints have been using this concept since Payton arrived in New Orleans. You can find plenty more examples going through the years of film.
With simple footwork and a defined throw, this concept translates very well to high school, and even youth football. With even more space to the wide side of the field at the lower levels, this play gives coaches a great way to get a 1-on-1 matchup with their best receiver with the most space available.
Follow Bobby Peters on Twitter: @b_peters12.
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