Steelers Film Room: Curl Flat Versus Cover Three

By Alex Kozora

Throughout the rest of the offseason, we’ll examine specific plays from the Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 season. We won’t be focusing so much on individual play, though that inevitably comes with any breakdown, but instead, we will focus on concepts used in the pro game to show not just what happened, but why it happened.

This will be an X’s and O’s series focusing on both sides of the ball. The good and bad of the Steelers of last season.

Taking a look at the curl/flat route combination used in Week 13 against the Baltimore Ravens.

Personnel: Posse (1 RB, 1 TE) 

Route Concept: Curl/Flat

Defense: Nickel

Coverage: Cover 3

Result: Five yard completion

Last time, we looked at a popular combination route concept – the mesh. We’ll do the same today breaking down the curl/flat combination. Like the mesh, the design isn’t complex and the concept is explicit. Two receiver route with one running a curl and the other a flat.

The purpose? Stretch the defense horizontally on the flat to open up the curl. Excellent way to create a cushion against zone coverage. Example of it in Week 13 against the Baltimore Ravens.

Le’Veon Bell lined up in the backfield. Emmanuel Sanders serving as the “X”. Bell releases into the flats with Sanders on a curl. Ravens playing Cover 3. Cornerbacks cover the deep third with the outside linebackers defending the flat.

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Outside linebacker Josh Bynes. #56, has to respect the flat and it widens him. He’s not able to sit in his zone, keep his eyes on the quarterback, and potentially squeeze the window on the curl. It eliminates him from the play.

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With it being Cover 3, the corner must play the deep third. As Emmanuel Sanders stems to the inside, the corner lets him go as he reaches his depth.

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Also worth pointing out Heath Miller’s curl route holds MIKE linebacker Daryl Smith, drawing his eyes and keeping the throwing window wide.

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Had Sanders not jumped to make the grab, and perhaps the throw was slightly off the mark, he would have had the opportunity to turn, get upfield, and pick up some YAC. Put your quick receivers in space through simple route concepts. Recipe for success.

Previous Film Room Sessions
Putting Pressure On Rookies
Facing The 46 Defense
Fake Wide Receiver Screen
The Steve McLendon Myth
Cover 2 Man
The Wildcat
Cover 1 And Forced Throws
Slant Flat In Red Zone
Divide Routes
Zone Blocking Scheme
Scrape Concept Versus The Read Option
Antonio Brown The Decoy
Sugaring The “A” Gaps
Running The Mesh

Senior in college, blogging from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Jonas

    Isn’t this another example of the horizontal stretch?

    3 curls, 2 flats – it’s that simple, when you know how to stretch things up; nice!

  • DoctorNoah

    Alex, looking at the defense, this could be man coverage by the corners with a single-high look and I wonder how Ben reads the coverage. How does this horizontal stretch at care against a cover one or other defensive scheme?

  • Weiss Chad

    Once again thanks Alex.I feel like I learn something new every time I read your articles.Job well done!!

  • walter mason

    Its a wonder Saunders didnt fumble on the play..