Football Appreciation: The Bomb

 Staff Photo by Matthew West.

Randy Moss is probably the best vertical receiver of all time

On the route tree it’s known as the “nine” .  But it has other names: the “streak”, the “go”, the “fly”.    Whatever you call it, everyone knows it when they see it, and it’s the most beautiful and most demoralizing play in football.  The bomb.   Now, please don’t confuse the bomb with its cousin the fade.  I’m talking about the deep, straight line route where a receiver lines up wide, the ball is snapped, the quarterback takes a deep drop and lets it loose.  The wide receiver sprints past the defensive back (That’s the key difference between the go and the fade; receivers don’t go past the defender on the fade. The fade is more power than grace) and in a blink, there are six points on the board, and the defense is left shell-shocked.

I am a football nerd.  I love the intricate, strategic things about the game; line splits, route progressions and defensive sub-packages.  But one of my early memories of football was seeing Wesley Walker catching deep balls up the sideline from Ken O’Brien.  While the strategy is what keeps me a football junkie,  the bomb is what hooked me to football.

In an era where teams spread the field to throw it short, and slot receivers are the foundation of many passing games, the fly is typically  just used to clear out space for another receiver’s in-breaking pattern.  The Steelers will take a shot with Mike Wallace a few times a game, but in general, the completed streak pass is a rare sight.  So take notice and appreciate when you see a well executed long ball up the side line.   It really is a thing of beauty.


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