Patriots pick up where Peyton Manning, Colts left off with no-huddle offense
Peyton Manning was three years into his career with the Colts when Tom Moore hatched the idea that soon would become the signature offense for Manning and eventually convince a growing number of teams -- including the Patriots, who host the Jets on Sunday -- that this unconventional approach could work.
Moore had dabbled with the no-huddle offense before then, and other teams previously used the strategy. Sam Wyche tried it in Cincinnati in the late 1980s and Jim Kelly's K-gun offense worked wonders for the Bills in the early 1990s. But Moore sensed the time could be right to apply the strategy on a more extensive basis with his prized quarterback, especially after Manning showed such dramatic improvement after his rookie year.
"You're sitting around thinking about things like you always do, rationalizing ways to use it, and I just said, 'Heck, let's try it,' " Moore said from his home in South Carolina. "The quarterback is involved so much in the game as it is, and by allowing him to make decisions based on what he's seeing, I was all for it."
Moore's theories now are being applied with much more regularity by numerous NFL teams, including the Ravens, Packers, Dolphins and Falcons. Several other teams, including the Eagles, Lions, Chiefs and Steelers, also employ the no-huddle offense at times.
"It's really an extension of your two-minute or hurry-up offense, something that all teams use in the last two minutes of the half or the fourth quarter," Moore said. "When the going gets tough and you don't have a lot of time left and you have to score to win the game, you have to use the two-minute offense. Well, the more I got to thinking about it, why shouldn't it be good the first two minutes of the game?"
The concept has caught on in earnest.
Though not all teams run it -- the Jets and Giants rarely go no-huddle outside the final two minutes of the half or the game -- the increased use suggests the no-huddle will be around for quite some time.
"I think some games we use it more than others, but it just depends on the game and the game plan, how it's going and various other factors," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "It's one of the things we can do and, if we think it gives us an advantage, then we can do it. If we don't, we won't."
The Jets figure on facing a lot of the no-huddle in Sunday's game, especially after seeing how frequently the Patriots have used the offense this season. Two weeks ago, for instance, the Patriots, behind quarterback Tom Brady, ran off an astounding 89 plays in their 31-21 win over Manning's Broncos. It was a textbook example of how effective the no-huddle can be, illustrating the many advantages of using the offense.
Offenses can create advantageous matchups when using the no-huddle by preventing opposing defenses from substituting players. In today's NFL, with so many specialized roles for defensive players, teams often shuttle players in and out of the lineup based on whether the defense believes a run or a pass is coming on a given play. But the no-huddle allows an offense to prevent those substitutions by immediately lining up after the previous play and not giving the defense time to make the substitutions. In the Patriots' win over the Broncos, for instance, linebacker Von Miller, arguably Denver's best player, was kept off the field for 29 of the Patriots' 89 plays.
The no-huddle allows a team to run more offensive plays, simply because there is less time between plays because there is no need for the quarterback to give out the play in the huddle. The more an offense operates at high efficiency, the greater number of plays it can run.
Defensive players can tire more quickly because of the lack of substitutions. Teams like to have a defensive rotation to keep players fresh, especially along the defensive line, but disrupting the regular substitution pattern can lead to fatigue, especially late in games.
The quarterback can get a better read of what an opposing defense is doing by having more time at the line to survey the formation. Most teams will send in plays by the offensive coordinator via the quarterback headset, but a quarterback has the option to change the play if he thinks he can counter the defensive formation with a more effective play.
Teams preparing to face a team that runs the no-huddle often find it difficult to replicate the speed of the offense during midweek practices. That's an area of particular concern for the Jets on Sunday.
"We try to emulate it in practice, but we really won't know how fast the tempo is until we play the game," cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. "It definitely makes things hard on a defense."
Jets safety Yeremiah Bell said the biggest challenge is dealing with personnel packages that are limited by the inability to substitute.
"We're not going to be able to sub as fast as they go, so the group on the field is really going to have to dial in and get the coverages down," Bell said. "What they want to do is run [offensive] guys in and out so they can get up to the line and go quick, try to get penalties and cheap yards that way. So the guys on the field are really going to have to be disciplined and play the coverages that are called."
The no-huddle can be a huge benefit for quarterbacks, even young ones. In Miami, for instance, rookie Ryan Tannehill is running a version of the offense he led at Texas A&M under Mike Sherman, now the Dolphins' offensive coordinator. The Dolphins, 3-3 under Tannehill, have used the no-huddle on more than half of their plays.
Most colleges now run some form of the no-huddle; in fact, former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, now the head coach at Penn State, saw his team run 99 plays during a victory over Northwestern on Oct. 6. The play total tied the school record for most plays in a game.
Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who has implemented the no-huddle as a regular part of quarterback Joe Flacco's routine, sees the increased use of the offense at the NFL level as a major benefit.
"We have people that we can move and running backs outside that aren't a decoy, so it's real," Cameron said. "It gets them the ball in space. There are a lot of different things that go with it. We aren't trying to put any window dressing on anything. We are putting guys in places strategically to give them an advantage, or give us an advantage. It's really that simple."