No-huddle offense pushes pace

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning may be known for his up-tempo, high-communication style of offense, but the New England Patriots may have one-upped him in that category on Sunday evening.

The Patriots did not huddle for 33 of their 40 plays in the first half, not including plays that began a drive or a quarter or came after the two-minute warning. That's an 83 percent rate that dipped slightly to 72 percent through three quarters, before a slower-paced fourth quarter.

"It's just been what we've chosen to do the last few weeks," quarterback Tom Brady said. "I think that's more of what we're doing as opposed to what they're doing defensively. We're just trying to put a lot of pressure on those guys to get their calls in and line up and play against us."

"I think that we tried to up-tempo it a little bit to keep them from substituting. They were able to substitute in at times, but I think at other times they couldn’t get them in," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We felt like the tempo helped us control the game a little bit."

Last week in Buffalo, the Patriots were able to take advantage of the Bills running more sub packages on defense, opting to run the ball more and coming away with one of their best rushing performances in decades.

Similarly, the Patriots were able to hold certain Broncos defensive personnel groups on the field on Sunday by using the no-huddle, which contributed to another strong performance in the running game.

"We're running the ball against some very advantageous looks and we're throwing the ball against some advantageous looks and I think the important part is to be able to do both," Brady said.

The no-huddle offense, of course, isn't anything novel for New England. It's been a part of their offensive game plans to varying extents for the better part of a decade.

"It is not new; they have been doing this for a long, long time," Broncos coach John Fox said. "They just have a good, solid group together doing it, so they communicate very well. And obviously (the Patriots) communicated better than we did."

"It's the pace we play at every game. It's what we practice, what we've been practicing since training camp and it's just the tempo that the coaches and that Tom want to play at," receiver Brandon Lloyd said. "You definitely see a change later in the game."

Communication can often be where the no-huddle breaks down. In their two playoff games following the 2005 season, for example, several offensive players wore wrist bands, presumably with a numbering system to facilitate offensive play-calling.

"It takes a lot of concentration. It takes a team effort for sure," tight end Rob Gronkowski said. "You've got to have all 11 guys working at the same pace and you've got to make sure you're doing your own job out there."

"Communication is key," guard Dan Connolly said. "As long as we all know what we're doing and we're on the same page, we can go fast."

The other factor affecting the no-huddle is the reality that the officials can only move so quickly to spot the ball after each play and get back in position.

"The refs were holding us back, so I don't think you can (get much faster)," Gronkowski said.