Definitions

hurry

Hurry-up offense

The hurry-up offense is an American football offensive style which has two related forms: the "two-minute drill" and the "no-huddle offense". A team using a hurry-up offense seeks to reduce the average game clock elapsed per play. Depending on the style of hurry-up used, this manifests as a change in play-calling strategy, a reduction or elimination of time spent in the huddle, or other clock management techniques. While the two-minute drill refers to a specific point in the game, the no-huddle may be used in some form at any time.

No-huddle

The no-huddle offense is usually employed as part of a hurry-up offense, but it is not necessarily an attempt to snap the ball (begin the play) quicker. Rather, the lack of huddle allows the offense to threaten to snap the ball quickly, denying the defending team time to substitute players and communicate effectively between coaches and players. When operating in the no-huddle, the offense typically lines up in a predetermined formation at scrimmage, possibly with a predetermined play in mind. The quarterback may then call an audible, altering the play call based on a perceived weakness in the defense's response. Some teams use this methodology to react to the defense and will remain at this pre-snap state for a considerable time as the clock runs down, providing a stream of actual and counterfeit play changes. A team that currently uses this tactic as their main approach is the Indianapolis Colts.

No-huddle as a standard method

The first team to employ the no-huddle approach as the normal offensive play strategy was the 1988-89 Cincinnati Bengals under Sam Wyche with Boomer Esiason as the quarterback. The no-huddle approach was used by many teams before but in specific situations for a limited time. This strategy proved to be very effective in limiting substitutions, creating fatigue in the opposing defense, creating play-calling issues for the defense, and various other advantages. The Bengals' regular employment of the no-huddle was sufficiently controversial that the league experimented with mid-season rules changes to discourage its use. The employment of the no-huddle propelled the Bengals to their second appearance in the Super Bowl.

The Buffalo Bills, defeated in the AFC Championship game by the no-huddle Bengals, soon adopted their approach. With Jim Kelly quarterbacking a no-huddle "K-Gun" offense, the Bills became the only team in NFL history to appear in four consecutive Super Bowls, from 1991-1994.

Currently the Indianapolis Colts with Peyton Manning as quarterback, New England Patriots with Tom Brady, and Cincinnati Bengals with Carson Palmer employ their own variations of this approach.

Two-minute drill

The two-minute drill is a high-pressure and fast-paced situational strategy where a team will focus on clock management, maximizing the number of plays available for a scoring attempt before a half (or game) expires. The tactics employed during this time involve managing players, substitutions, time-outs, and clock-stopping plays to get as many plays in. In the first half, either team may employ the two-minute drill; however, near the end of the game, only a team tied or losing employs the strategy. Most famously, the two-minute drill references end-of-game drives by a team tied or trailing by one possession.

The two-minute drill is named for the point in the game (about two minutes remaining in a half) when it is employed. If significantly more time remains, a team's standard strategies are still viable; if significantly less, a team has little option beyond a Hail Mary pass.

Play calling during the two-minute drill emphasizes high probabilities of significant yardage gains or clock stoppages. To help control the clock, teams tend to pass rather than run and to pass near the sidelines rather than the middle of the field. The former provides for incomplete passes while the latter allows the receiver to run out of bounds, both stopping the clock. When plays that do not stop the clock occur, the offense relies on a combination of hurry-up plays, spikes, and time-outs to minimize time lost. Additionally, in college football, the offense can temporarily stop the clock by gaining a first down.

Finally, as a two-minute drill nears completion, the offense's clock management stance may shift towards running out the clock in an effort to deny the opponent their own opportunity for a two-minute drill.

Example two-minute drill

In Super Bowl XLII, the New York Giants executed a two-minute drill culminating in the game-winning touchdown against the New England Patriots. Taking possession with 2:39 remaining, the Giants' play calling broke down as:

  • 11 called passes verses 1 called running play
  • 7 passes to sidelines versus 2 passes to midfield

When plays did not stop the clock automatically, the Giants took action as follows:

  • The clock was allowed to run normally once, 30 seconds between plays
  • Hurry-up plays were run twice, average 15 seconds between plays
  • Time-outs were used three times, average 11 seconds between plays

For comparison, the six plays which stopped the clock by rule averaged 5 seconds between plays.

In total, the Giants' two-minute drill ran 12 plays for 83 yards in 2:07 of game time. By contrast, the Patriots' preceding drive (run without hurry-up) ran 12 plays for 80 yards in 5:12.

References

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