The Smash concept, like the Levels concepts is built primarily to act the Cover 2 Shell based defenses by creating a vertical stretch on a zone defender and forcing him to account for two receiver in his zone. The vertical stretch created by the smash concept creates a vertical stretch on the sideline in the same way that Four Verticals creates a horizontal stretch deep down field.
Like Levels the Smash concept is at its core a two man passing concept. This means that in a four wide set where their are two receivers on either side of the field the levels concept will only needs to be run on one half of the field, only by two of the four receivers. Often it is run on both sides of the field. The inside or slot receiver (Y in the diagram below) will run about 10 yards down the seam as if were running a go-route and then will cut at a 45 degree angle towards the near pylon. Meanwhile the outside receiver (Z in the diagram below) will run about 5-6 yards upfield and then will make a sharp cut so that he is facing the quarterback. As should be clear from the diagram the defender tasked with defending the flats (the area just past the line of scrimmage near the sideline) will either have to drop down to cover the “smash” route (the quick 6 yard curl by the outside receiver) or drop back deep to cover the corner route being run by the inside receiver. Often the defender will drop back deep allowing the easy completion to the 6 yard “smash” route.
This route is also timing based, the quarterback most throw the ball as soon as he has completed his drop. However, instead of being coverage based the quarterback simply needs to read the defender covering the flats (the cornerback in a Cover 2 defense). Again, if he drops deep throw the quick “smash” route if he stays shallow throw the corner. When throwing the corner it is the responsibilty of the quarterback to throw the receiver open. This means that the quarterback throws the ball into empty grass and the receiver has to go get it. With a quick receiver and a good throw by the quarterback the corner route becomes very hard to cover in man coverage (also since the corner route is being run by the inside receiver it is probably being defended by a linebacker or nickleback). Against any coverage the trick is the mastering of the “smash route”. Once the receiver has turned back towards the quarterback it is his responsibility to “drift open” so that he has gained some separation from the defender covering him. If the defender shoots towards the sideline the receiver drifts in, if the defender covering the flats does not shoot towards the sideline the receiver drifts towards the receiver.
Here is video of the game winning play by the Steelers against the Cardinals in the 2008 Superbowl. Notice that they are running the Smash concept on the right side of the field. Rothelisburger must have seen the defense jump on the hitch route which allowed Holmes to get behind the defense in the back of the endzone for the game winning score. Oh and that is what I meant by a good throw and catch.
Also here is a diagram of this concept as the Patriots used it in their last minute victory over the Bills to open the 2010 season. Notice how the concept is inverted, so that the corner is facing inside and the “smash” route is also more in the middle of the field.
As a final note, the Levels and Smash concept are very similar. In fact the two could be stacked on top of each other in such away that it would be practically impossible for the defense to tell the difference between the two concepts presnap.
If you want to learn more about this concept I recommend the following articles from Smart Football:
- In this article Chris Brown breaks down how to use the Smash concept against man coverage: http://smartfootball.com/passing/the-smash-route-against-man
- In this article Chris Brown explains paring the Smash concept with a divide route: http://smartfootball.blogspot.com/2008/01/divide-route-in-multiple-smash-concept.html