It is obvious the new wave of offense that has dominated the college landscape for years has now crept into the NFL, and defenses are consistently struggling against the no-huddle attacks. The Rams, for their part, had a total of 72 offensive plays in last weekend’s 31-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and ran some hurry-up offense during the contest.
Most teams’ play count average is near 65 snaps per game. Offenses, regardless of whether a quarterback is in traditional position under center, in shotgun or orchestrating the pistol, all have the ability to operate at several different tempos (fast, slow, normal) within a game. Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams, meanwhile frequently averaged over 80 snaps, running plays every 17 seconds. Various college teams, in fact, are accustomed to executing a fast-paced offense, in some cases exceeding the up-tempo Ducks’ number of snaps.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has done a good job of cleaning up not only the NFL, but all levels of football, trickled down to the little league levels of competition. One question, however, remains: Will the increased snaps due to this up-tempo shift possibly create more injuries?
A 2009 study conducted and researched by the University of Michigan suggests that fatigued athletes – no matter the level of competition – were more likely and vulnerable to torn ACLs, Achilles injuries and multiple soft tissue ailments. The study also found that mental fatigue delays reaction times, leading to additional injuries. It will be interesting to track and follow the concussion count, seeing if it rises along with the uptick in snaps.
Since he left Eugene for the Philadelphia, Kelly, has put the pedal to the metal, increasing the pace of each game in which the Eagles play. The New England Patriots actually visited Kelly and his staff several years ago and received a clinic on the man’s up-tempo scheme several years ago. Hall of Famer Tom Brady, of course, has flourished in that offense.
Keep in mind, though, that simply boasting a no-huddle offense doesn’t mean that a team cant run the ball. Looking at the Patriots and the Eagles, both teams strike a fine balance between running and passing the ball. According to Elias Sports Bureau, there are other successful imitators, as well. Overall, the Green Bay Packers are ranked No. 1 in offense (second in passing, 16th in rushing, second in points scored), Philadelphia comes in second (10th in passing, second in rushing and third in points scored) and Denver Broncos ranks third (third in passing, 20th in rushing and first in points scored). All three teams run the no-huddle system at some point in the game, but they also run the football to grind the clock and shorten the game.
“I’m very pleased with the production we got out of it,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said about the subject on Wednesday. “You’re down by 11 against Arizona, we’ve got to catch up. We hurry up. We score points. Same thing last week, we got down by 21 and we had to score points to catch up. You don’t necessarily like to get down, but fortunately we were in a position to make games out of both of them because we uptempoed the offense.”
Even if it excels in the no-huddle, hurry-up or up-tempo, a team will eventually slow down the tempo and look for the running game to complement that spread passing attack. A somewhat balanced attack, while still featuring multiple formations and motions, drives defensive coordinators crazy and forces them to second-guess their combative strategy, with an emphasis on staying mindful of covering the whole field. On the flip side, if offenses are not successful, turning the ball over to the opponent is not what you want, either. It is about ball control, scoring points and perpetually changing tempo.
In the continuing debate about the merits of going up-tempo, though, the only thing that matters at the end of the day is which team gets the “W.”