By Rich Kurtzman
When the Broncos and Patriots came together Sunday in the NFL’s game of the week, we all got a glimpse into the future of football.
Peyton Manning took the first kickoff and marched his team 74 yards quickly down the field and into a goal to go situation. That was before Demaryius Thomas had the ball punched out of his grasp and watched it bounce away from him. The way Manning moved the Broncos down the field was vintage, passing out of the shotgun in the no-huddle offense with exact efficiency. The veteran quarterback lulled the Patriots’ defense to sleep, completing 4-6 short passes and even running for a first down before connecting with Thomas deep down the seam.
A little later in the first quarter, it was Tom Brady’s turn, and the Patriots turned up the intensity and tempo to yet unforeseen levels. Brady rushed his team to the line time after time, running the ball relentlessly with Stevan Ridley while mixing in short passes to keep the Denver D off-balance. It was capped off by one of those short passes, when Wes Welker leaked out to the flat and found himself with a walk-in touchdown.
The Broncos tied the game up at seven with another masterful Manning drive that resulted in a score, and Brady was quick to answer back.
Again it was non-stop no-huddle; this time though, it was breathtaking how quickly they called plays. Of the 14 plays on the drive, there were an equal number of runs and passes, and by the end of the Patriots’ possession, the Broncos’ defense was literally out of breath. So much so, Denver couldn’t even get set on multiple plays, allowing their opponents to walk into the end zone and take the lead they would never relinquish.
It was about as perfect an offense could be run. The balance forced the Broncos to stay honest and the power blocking cut through the front seven like a hot knife through butter. Then Brady dissected the secondary, picking on nickelback Chris Harris the most by going to Welker a game-high 13 times, while spreading it out to six receivers on the game. When he was passing, the three-time Super Bowl champion was incredibly efficient, completing 74 percent of his passes for a modest 223 yards and one score. That may be the most astonishing part about the offense’s performance—Brady didn’t have to throw for an astounding amount of yards and touchdowns to basically dominate the contest from the beginning.
They ran up 24 straight points to stretch the lead to 31-7 late in the third quarter.
Of course, no lead is safe against these awesome offenses. Manning orchestrated two touchdown drives in a mere five minutes to bring the Broncos to within 10 points, and they were one their way to get even closer when Willis McGahee fumbled the ball late.
It made for an exciting game for each team’s fans and a scoreboard full of points.
That’s why the no-huddle, hurry-up offense is the wave of the future. It disallows substitutions, which quickly wears down defenses and keeps them locked into one certain personnel grouping. It gives the offense all the advantages, especially one like New England’s that has a multitude of playmakers to get the ball to, as they can run or pass and work the defense in any way they see fit. The quick-hitting offensive style keeps the defense on their heels literally and figuratively, making them susceptible to being scored upon.
People love high-scoring games with huge plays, and the no-huddle leads to all of that as well.
While the level of precision needed to run the no-huddle as well as Brady and Manning is extremely high, many more teams will mimic the style and we could see it as a commanding force in football soon.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.