No-huddle appears to be a strength, and stats prove it

I’m by no means a guru when it comes to the inner workings of NFL offenses.

I’ve never sat in on a quarterbacks meeting, never broken down tape alongside an NFL coach or gameplanned an offense based on an opponent’s defensive tendencies.

But I don’t think it takes any of that experience to notice that Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense seem more comfortable when they’re working out of the hurry-up and Flacco is in the shotgun.

Down 24-3 late in the second quarter, the Ravens didn’t make any dramatic changes to their gameplan, but they decided it was time to push tempo. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had Flacco run a hurry-up look, and the offense responded, rattled off 24 points over a five-drive span, propelling the Ravens to a big come-from-behind win.

“I think we react well to the hurry-up,” Flacco said after the game. “I think it can put a defense on their heels a little bit. I think it can wear them out a little bit. It’s tough to rush the passer, rush the passer, really be able to hold up in there and continue to get that good pass rush. I think that was a big part of it.”

The statistics from yesterday afternoon indicate that the no-huddle could be a major weapon for the Ravens going forward.

Joe_Flacco-sidebar-good-protection.jpgBy my count, Flacco threw 18 passes when the Ravens went without a huddle against the Cardinals. Of those 18 throws, Flacco completed 15 passes for 168 yards.

Yeah, that’s not too shabby.

Going even further with this, let’s examine Flacco’s numbers when working out of the shotgun, as compared to dropping back from under center.

In the gun, Flacco went 29-of-43 for 320 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. When he came from under center, Flacco was a lowly 2-of-8 for 16 yards and an interception (although the pick came when a very catchable Flacco pass went through the hands of Torrey Smith and was snatched away by Arizona’s Richard Marshall).

That’s not to say the no-huddle calls or shotgun formations worked every time they were utilized. Cameron pointed out after the game that the Ravens ran a bit of each early in the game with minimal success. But it sure appears that, overall, Flacco is able to get into more of a rhythm and can to survey the field more effectively when the Ravens are going with an up-tempo offense and the quarterback is allowed to work from the gun.

Flacco ran a ton of no-huddle and worked almost entirely out of the shotgun while in college. Delaware’s spread offense rarely had the quarterback under center, and while Flacco would have to look to the sideline to get his plays from the coaches, he grew accustomed to that fast-paced style. If that’s what he’s comfortable with, why not stick with it?

In addition, as Flacco indicated, the no-huddle benefits the offensive line because it wears out pass rushers and allows for fewer (if any) defensive substitutions. Given the way Baltimore’s O-line has played of late, they need all the assistance they can get.

“(The no-huddle) definitely helped,” left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. “It worked in our favor and we were wearing them down a little bit.”

It’s important to point out that the Ravens struggled running the ball out of the no-huddle, picking up just five yards on four carries when they attempted to push tempo. Running back Ray Rice indicated after the game that he actually isn’t a huge fan of the no-huddle, because it keeps his Pro Bowl fullback, Vonta Leach, on the sideline for large chunks of time.

The Ravens will have to find a balance there, but when something’s working, you have to stick with it.

“We went up-tempo to see if we could sustain it and then got that score to start the second half. Then you just ride it,” Cameron said. “You can be three-and-out pretty quick, even if you’re up-tempo, but our guys kept us on the field and did a great job.”

Is it finally time to develop more packages where the Ravens go up-tempo and Flacco works exclusively out of the gun to get him into a comfort zone and to tire out the opposing team’s front-seven? Given the way those looks worked yesterday, maybe it is, yeah.

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