The New England Patriots have slowed down the pace on offense to avoid the no huddle, which will be an interesting juxtaposition when they face Chip Kelly’s high-speed San Francisco 49ers offense next week.
According to the official NFL stats, QB Jimmy Garoppolo did not throw a single pass out of no huddle. QB Jacoby Brissett threw on a mere 3 snaps of no huddle, going 2 of 3 for 18 yards. QB Tom Brady threw on 16 snaps going 13 of 16 for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns.
This means the 2016 quarterbacks have led the no huddle on 19 of 281 pass attempts (6.76%). For comparison, Brady threw 92 of his 624 pass attempts (14.74%) in 2015 out of the no huddle, and 46 of 582 in 2014 (7.90%).
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick just doesn’t think the no huddle gives the Patriots as much of an advantage this year.
“We try to do things that we feel like can gain an advantage,” Belichick said this week. “If we feel like we can gain an advantage doing something then we do it, and if we don’t then we won’t or we’ll do something else. The tradeoff between going no-huddle and basically not substituting, leaving the same people on the field versus changing personnel is – it’s really hard to do both.”
The Patriots have plenty of depth on offense, but it’s clear that certain players have defined roles. RB LeGarrette Blount is the running back. RB James White is the third down receiving back. WR Danny Amendola is the red zone specialist. There are certain players that need to get on the field in certain scenarios and that prevents the offense from fully adopting the no huddle.
I feel like the return of RB Dion Lewis, who is capable of both running and receiving, will usher in a greater no huddle utilization.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels points to fewer game scenarios that require the no huddle as a reason for the decline.
“We haven’t had a lot of two minute-type scenarios or situations come up this year,” McDaniels noted on Tuesday, “but we certainly have done it a little bit at the end of the half and or the end of the game.”
There is also the factor of complementary football. If the defense is exhausted from having played two straight drives of 10+ plays, then perhaps Belichick will ask the offense to slow down the tempo in order to give the defense a much-needed breather. But as far as Belichick and McDaniels are willing to reveal, the defense has nothing to do with the offensive play calling.
“It’s certainly an element of complementary football; I’m not saying that,” Belichick said. “Things are related, but in the end when you have the ball you’ve got to try and score, and when you don’t have the ball you’ve got to try to stop the other team.”
McDaniels echoed Belichick by saying the head coach would give him “some information” about “what’s best for the game,” but that his focus remains on scoring points.
Lewis could return to the line-up this week against the 49ers. We’ll see if the no huddle makes a return.