Patriots have learned to lean on the no-huddle offense
|10.13.11 at 1:17 am ET|
FOXBORO — No huddle? No problem.
Over the first five games of the season, the Patriots have run 342 plays from scrimmage. According to official NFL gamebooks, New England has utilized the no-huddle offense for 74 snaps (27 plays against the Dolphins, 15 against the Chargers, 12 against the Bills, five times against the Raiders and 15 times against the Jets), or 21.6 percent of the time.
While the Patriots haven’t seen an appreciable difference in overall yardage when they’ve gone to the no-huddle — on Sunday against the Jets, the Patriots averaged 6.2 yards per play, and 5.5 yards per play in the no-huddle — it’s been the context in which those yards have been gained that has made a difference. Like a boxer with an opponent on the ropes, the Patriots have gone to the no-huddle when they’ve sensed a weakness in their opponent.
It’s not necessarily the speed that leaves opposing defenses gassed. Instead, it’s used to leave an opponent as little time to adjust as possible during key moments. There’s no time to shuttle defenders in and out of the huddle — there’s not even really time to huddle. Instead, they have to have guys on and off the field at top speed, lest New England take advantage of a mismatch or miscommunication.
On Sunday against the Jets, the best use of no-huddle came at the end of the third quarter. As the Patriots went no-huddle for seven plays on an 11-play drive, the Jets struggled at times to get the right personnel on and off the field while New England would start lining up immediately at the end of the play. On one play, an out-of-position defender allowed the Patriots to get a quick four-yard pickup on a Tom Brady pass to Wes Welker, while on another player later in the drive, Brady found running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis split right with no New York receiver within 15 yards of him. The running back hauled in a quick pass and took the ball 13 yards down to the Jets’ 3-yard line. (On the following play, the New York defense had just 10 players on the field before New England called a timeout.)
‘It’s just all about being as multiple as you can be and trying to keep the defense off-balance as much as you can,’ said offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. ‘Playing at a fast tempo is really just our philosophy.’
Perhaps the most effective no-huddle sequence of the year for the Patriots came in the third quarter against the Dolphins, where they ran it the final six plays of a 10-play drive midway through the third quarter, punching in a touchdown from three yards out when Brady found Welker on a quick pass to the left. (That quarter, the Patriots gained 109 yards on 10 plays out of the no-huddle, a season high for New England in both departments.)
Expect more no-huddle this weekend against the Cowboys, as Dallas is a team that has very little experience trying to defend it. While facing the Cowboys, teams have only used the no-huddle 11 percent of the time, including one game where the opponent (San Francisco) used it just once in 54 snaps.
Brady said communication is the biggest key when it comes to successful running a no-huddle offense.
‘It does no good if 10 of the 11 guys have the right call on; we’re all trying to be on the same page,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t really do any good if you’re not on the same page, because then that leads to negative plays and negative plays lead to long-yardage situations. Long-yardages situations lead to three-and-outs or punts.
‘I think most of the time you have to — before the ball is snapped — everybody has to really know what they’re doing and be on the same page so that even if it is a bad play, it’s not a negative play; it can be an incomplete pass or a run for one or two yards. But you really can’t afford a lot of negative plays when you do that.’