The “All Curl” route combination is one of the simplest plays in football. The San Francisco 49ers, under the direction of Kyle Shanahan, will use this concept frequently in 2018. Shanahan will typically feature the route combination out of a trips set.
Simply speaking, everybody runs ten yards and stops. The image below shows the play.
At its core, the play spaces five receivers across the field and gives the quarterback stationary targets. The play is designed to look like four verticals, but each receiver will stop at 10 yards and hitch up to the quarterback. If four verticals from trips is a part of your base offense, this play could be a good compliment for you.
Against cover three zones, the offense will evenly space the four underneath defenders with five stationary targets for the quarterback. If the defense calls a fire zone blitz, the back can stay in for protection, and the offense will still have four receivers for the defense’s three defenders. The image below shows the play against a cover three shell.
For the slot receivers to get open, they will need to sell their vertical stem. Against pattern match cover three teams, the #2 defender will match the vertical stem, and should have his hips turned to run with the receiver. In the diagram above, the offense gets this matchup with the #2 receiver
Once Jimmy Garoppolo took over the offense in Week 13 of the 2017 season, the 49ers had a lot of success with this play call on third downs. The video below shows a conversion in Week 13 against Chicago. The Bears played a single high coverage and the 49ers got the matchup described above.
In this clip, the #2 defender fears the vertical stem from the speedy slot receiver. This allows the receiver to hitch up at 10 yards and pick up a first down right at the sticks
Shanahan will run the concept out of a 2x2 formation as well. The middle curl route will come from one of the slots, angling their route at the inside linebackers. The video below shows the play against Seattle in Week 12. The inside linebackers covered the middle curl from the tight end on the quarterback’s right. This places the flat defender on the left in a two-on-one situation. The quarterback, however, chose to take the check-down.
Against two-high safeties, the offense can get a speedy slot receiver lined up at the #3 spot matched up with the middle linebacker. Whether the defense plays a form of cover two or cover four, the middle linebacker needs to protect the middle of the field. The concept is diagrammed against two-high safeties below. The matchup with the middle linebacker is highlighted in green.
The outside receivers will occasionally run vertical routes in this concept. This adjustment works well against defenders in a trail technique.
The 49ers call the All Curl concept in a third down situation the following week against Houston. This time they motion the back out of the backfield to get to an empty set. The #2 receiver on the weak side of the formation will run a whip route to attack the landmark that the running back would have checked-down into. The diagram below shows this variation.
The video below shows the concept against Houston.
The 49ers get a two high safety look from Houston. Garoppolo decides to work the #3 receiver against the middle linebacker. With great anticipation, Garoppolo hits his receiver right out of his break with enough room to pick up a first down.
When defenses see bunch formations, they tend to check to some sort of match coverage or a true zone. The 49ers get this response in a Week 10 matchup with the New York Giants (before Garoppolo took over). The video below shows the All Curl concept out of a bunch formation.
The underneath zone defenders lose track of the middle curl route. This gives the quarterback enough space to fit the ball in and pick up a first down.
This concept can be used at any level of football. Throwing to a stationary target also adds an element of safety to the play. The read for the quarterback is simple: find the receiver with the most cushion.
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