Keep up, if you can

Posted Oct 22, 2011

With the success the Seahawks have had running their no-huddle offense recently, the Browns must worry about not if they’ll use it on Sunday but when and how much.

CLEVELAND – Preparing to face the Seahawks isn’t just a matter of determining if they’ll use their no-huddle offense, but when and how much.

“It looks like the last game and a half they’ve gotten to some no-huddle stuff that they feel good about and they’re moving the ball and scoring points,” Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said this week, as his Browns were getting ready for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

“So we’re going to prepare for that front to back. There’s every reason to believe we’re going to see it from the beginning of the game to the end.”

That definitely was the case in the Seahawks’ last game – a 36-25 upset of the New York Giants in the Meadowlands two weeks ago.

The Seahawks won the coin toss and opened with the no-huddle, driving 80 yards in eight plays to Tarvaris Jackson’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Ben Obomanu – the team’s initial first-possession scoring drive this season, and only the second first-half TD in its first five games. They also closed with it, driving 80 yards in seven plays late in the fourth quarter to Charlie Whitehurst’s 27-yard TD pass to Doug Baldwin for proved to be the game-winner.

The Seahawks ran 40 plays in the first half and used the no-huddle 18 times, according to the play-by-play summary. In the second half, it was 36 snaps and 15 from the no-huddle.

It’s this mix-and-match, when-and-where approach that helps make the Seahawks’ no-huddle approach so productive. Opponents are aware it’s coming, but still have a difficult time dealing with it.

“We knew it was coming, we prepared for it but we just didn’t have an answer for them,” Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said after the Week 5 game. “We practiced for that all week. We knew it was coming. We just weren’t able to stop them.”

Every team has a version of the no-huddle. But the one that has been so good to the Seahawks in their past three games isn’t a hurry-up approach that is characteristic of what teams do at the end of a first half or game. It’s an up-tempo attack where they’ll huddle after incomplete passes or other clock-stopping plays, but also go no-huddle on four or five consecutive snaps.

“It’s not a two-minute drill, it’s a no-huddle offense,” center Max Unger said. “They’re two different things. It’s not like, ‘Hurry up, we have a minute to go down and try to score.’ It’s just that we’re not going to huddle and we’re going to call the plays through the quarterback.”

So it’s up-tempo? “There you go,” Unger said. “Exactly.”

They’ve gotten so proficient at it that the players have adopted a here-it-is-try-and-stop-it mentality.

“I like it,” Unger said. “We’ve obviously had a good amount of success in it. It’s just kind of evolving into something that we’ll do here and there. I wouldn’t say that it’s going to be our full offense.

“But we play well when we go faster.”

Going without a huddle also prevents the defense from substituting and can create mismatch opportunities. It also allows the offense to be the aggressor by forcing the tempo – and the issue.

“It puts the defense at a distinct disadvantage,” fullback Michael Robinson said.

Offered Whitehurst, “It’s great. It puts pressure on the defense. We’ve seen that the last few weeks. I’m comfortable back there – know the calls and you’re kind of in control back there, too. That’s nice. You kind of get the feel for the game and get to call some of your own plays and it puts your head in the game that much more.”

The Seahawks first went with a heavy dose of the no-huddle in the second half of their Week 3 game against the Arizona Cardinals because the offense had been out of control in the first two games – scoring just 17 points. The no-huddle helped produce the touchdown (an 11-yard run by Jackson) in the third quarter that provided the final margin on victory, 13-10.

The following week, after falling behind 24-7 to the Atlanta Falcons in the first half, the Seahawks went no-huddle in the second half again. They scored twice in the third quarter, and again in the fourth quarter.

In their past two games, the Seahawks have averaged 398 yards, compared to 214.7 in their first three games.

“I do know it gives us rhythm. I do know our guys play fast. I do know our guys have less to think about – I mean, it’s moving so fast that their focus is really dialed in,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.

And, the no-huddle has produced points whether it’s Jackson or Whitehurst running it – a definite factor with Jackson listed as doubtful because of the strained pectoral he got in the third quarter of the Giants game.

“We haven’t been doing it very long,” Whitehurst said. “Obviously, we’re not going to use just that.”

But teams better get used to seeing more of it, and not just from the Seahawks.

“This is just a personal feeling, but I think in about five to seven years the National Football League will be no-huddle,” Robinson said. “And guys will be looking to the sideline like copycats.”

Until then, it will be up to Seahawks’ opponents to play catch-up – and try to figure out not if, but when and how much they’ll use their no-huddle.