Thursday, October 23, 2014

Speed it up, guys

Something for Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan to ponder . . .

It’s time for the Browns to head back to the kind of offense that proved so successful in four of the first six games of the season. Time to go up-tempo and dial up more no huddle.

There was a very good reason the Browns scored a pathetic six points against one of the worst defenses in the National Football League last Sunday in Jacksonville. They all but abandoned the no-huddle approach to football.

Stop and think. What helped erase a 27-3 halftime lead by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener and tied the game with about five minutes left? That’s right, the no huddle.

OK, they lost that game. But they wouldn’t have been in it had it not been for the success of the no huddle. They actually had the Steelers breathless and running scared until the end.

And look what happened in the game against Tennessee. The Titans ran out to a 28-3 lead with about two minutes left in the first half of that one. The Browns were all but buried until they remembered . . . wait for it . . . the no huddle.

Didn’t take long to overcome that large deficit and finally take the lead with a few minutes left. Without the up-tempo game, they were looking at an embarrassing loss.

So why in the world would they all but forsake that offense that helped them win one game and scare the daylights out of another team in another? What in the world were the coaches thinking?

What possible excuse could they use to explain away that serious misuse of an offense that has produced mostly positive results? There are none. All they have to do is look at the numbers.

They used the no huddle only 13 times in the Jacksonville loss, a paltry four in the first half. And they did not use it with any consistency.

The beauty of the no huddle is to prevent the opposition from substituting and slowly wear them down. It also allows the quarterback, in this case Brian Hoyer, to pretty much run his own offense.

Shanahan can try and send in plays, but Hoyer is too busy in this case calling out the protections, making certain all skill players are lined up correctly and having enough time to read the defense.

The Jaguars were playing just badly enough on offense to keep the Browns in the game. It was their defense that needed to be slowed down and ultimately worn down and the no huddle is the perfect way to accomplish that.

So what if the Browns had two positions changes on the offensive line? It worked in the first half of the Titans game when John Greco moved over to play center when Alex Mack went down and Paul McQuistan replaced him at right guard.

The new setup along the line didn’t hinder the historic comeback against the Titans. And yet, that scheme was eschewed in Jacksonville probably because the offensive thinking was the Jags’ defense would buckle. Instead, it got stronger.

In the Steelers’ loss, the Browns, no doubt believing they had nothing to lose, went up-tempo in the second half after putting just a Billy Cundiff field goal on the board in the first 30 minutes.

Running 21 of their 31 plays no huddle on the first four series of the second half, they erased the Pittsburgh halftime lead with three touchdowns and a field goal before putting together a seven-play, 54-yard drive (six no huddle) that ended with  a punt.

Against Tennessee, Shanahan called for 19 no-huddle plays of the 68 the Browns ran. Four series without a no huddle produced a punt, field goal, interception and touchdown. The five possessions with at least one no-huddle play produced a field goal, touchdown, ball turned over on downs and touchdown.

In case you’re wondering how the no-huddle factored into the other three games . . .

In the victory over New Orleans, the Browns ran 19 of their 72 plays up-tempo, 16 in the second half. In the loss to Baltimore, they ran only four of their 55 plays without a huddle, just one in the second half. And in the Pittsburgh victory, nine of their 56 plays were no huddle, three in the second half. That’s because they wrapped up the game with a strong first half (21-3 lead) and coasted. The six no-huddle plays in the first half were either directly responsible for or led to three touchdowns.

It’s quite obvious the Browns have achieved much more success with the no-huddle approach than those plays where they huddled. There is statistical proof they fare far better on offense when playing up-tempo football.

They need to trust Hoyer more with that approach. With games against winless Oakland and one-victory Tampa Bay up next, faster football on offense should be given more consideration. A lot more. 


  1. Memo to file: Mack was injured during the Steelers game. Offensive line was unchanged during the Titan comeback.

  2. Southie,

    I stand corrected. Good catch. I need to filter myself a little better. Appreciate it. Keeps me on my toes. They still didn't miss a beat for the rest of that game when Mack went down.

    I knew you'd be back. Just can't get enough, can you?

    I stand firm by my notion that this team operates better offensively when it goes uptempo. Agree or disagree.

    1. True. The surprising thing to me was how Grecco played like he had never made a snap in his life and that guard they picked up from Seattle was worthless. Hoyer lost confidence in his protection and the backs had no blocking. The results were self-evident.

  3. And yet, the offensive coaches never made any adjustments to alleviate the problems. Not to mention Pettine's awful fourth-down decisions. The coaches were just as culpable as the players.

    1. Agree, it was a "total" team effort. In defense of the coaches(except for Pettine), I don't think they anticipated the offensive line would melt down like it did. They certainly showed no signs of it during the second half of the Steelers game. What adjustments can you make when your pass protection breaks down and you have no run blocking? Not many alternatives left.