INDIANAPOLIS – In the most important game of the 2020 season (to this point), Frank Reich and Philip Rivers decided to rev it up a bit.
From 2013-15, when Reich and Rivers worked together in San Diego, going up-tempo was a staple of what the Chargers offense was all about.
But in 2020, the Colts have largely shied away from using a no-huddle, quick tempo approach.
That was until last Thursday, when the Colts decided to turn to a faster pace, and it led to a revived offensive performance, with the first 7 Colts drives of the game all reaching at least the 30-yard line of the Titans.
“It worked really well (against the Titans),” Reich says of the change to using a no-huddle offense. “It really gave us a good spark, good energy. The guys handled it really, really well.
“Part of that decision was that it was a short week. It was something that Philip and I talked about – what do you do when you have a short week? Well, one of the answers is because when you go no-huddle you tend to be a little bit more base core in your play call because you don’t have as much shifting and motion and stuff like that. So let’s just run our core plays and let’s just run them with speed. That’s a change-up. So it just made sense to do. I had a lot of experience when I was here before with Peyton (Manning). You guys remember how successful Peyton was on Thursday nights. There were a lot of reasons for that but that was one of them.”
Leading into last Thursday’s contest with the Titans, we noted how it would be wise for the Colts to try and spark things offensively with some up-tempo pace.
It worked beautifully, as it tends to do.
Reich was with Rivers when he had success it in from 2013-15.
“(Rivers) does thrive in it,” Reich says. “We basically were no-huddle for three years to tell you the truth – for the better part of three years. We weren’t always up-tempo, but we basically didn’t huddle for three years.”
So why not use it more?
“What is the danger of doing it all the time?” Reich asks rhetorically. “I’ve played and coached in offenses where we did it for 16 games and for most of the game in all 16 games. It can catch up to you a little bit. I just think it has to be a tool and you keep mixing it in. How much or how little, it is by design but it’s also by feel. That will be a game-by-game decision.
“I don’t think we are going to get to (using it for 60 minutes every week). I think we want to mix it up. I just think when you get one dimensional, and that can mean a lot of different things, unless you’re just a superpower, unless you’re just better than the other team at every position – and we’re a good football team, but I don’t think there is any team in the NFL that can just line up and say, ‘We’re going to do the same thing on every snap and we don’t care if you know.’ I think our M-O will be to continue to mix it up and that’s the art of it. How much? Is it 10 percent? Is it 30 percent? If we get hot, do we go a whole game with it? Those are the coaching decisions that you’ve got to make in the course of the game and the season.”
Here’s a look at what Rivers did during those no-huddle Chargers seasons with Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni, with the QB’s career ranking in parenthesis based off Rivers’ 14 years of starting:
- 2013 (9-7): 69.5 percent (1st), 4,478 yards (6th), 32 TDs (3rd), 11 INTs (4th), 8.2 yards per attempt (5th), 105.5 rating (4th)
- 2014 (9-7): 66.5 percent (3rd), 4,286 yards (9th), 31 TDs (5th), 18 INTs (11th), 7.5 yards per attempt (10th), 93.8 rating (8th)
- 2015 (4-12): 66.1 percent (4th), 4,792 yards (1st), 29 TDs (7th), 13 INTs (7th), 7.2 yards per attempt (12th), 93.8 rating (8th)
What are some of the takeaways?
-Consistent, elite accuracy
-Tapering off efficiency
-Better than average career numbers
Rivers acknowledges that it’s probably best to use a quicker pace interchangeability, and not on an every series/every game basis.
Given Rivers’ acumen, the desire for Reich to have unpredictable personnel (i.e. Nyheim Hines or Trey Burton) and the success that the Colts have had with using this tempo, it begs the question on if this is the best route for the offense moving forward?
“Not necessarily, I think it’s the ability to mix it up,” Rivers says about if up-tempo is his preferred offensive style. “I think it’s really what makes it most effective. If you’re always huddling or always no huddling – then again, it doesn’t matter unless you’re getting first downs. I don’t care if you’re huddling or going no-huddle. I do like that mode, and I think as we have this year and we’ll probably continue to use it as a change up and mix it in at times. The game called for it a little bit against Cincinnati, but there were games I remember back in that three-year stretch, where it was just one of those games. It was a no-huddle type game. We were going to be in only three or four formations, and we were going to go based on what the defense played and with the looks they gave us. Then there are other games where you go, ‘No-huddle doesn’t make a lot of sense.’
“I think Coach (Reich) has a great feel for that and he and I in communicating throughout the week, week-by-week, will know if there is a time to go on a spurt of no-huddle or use it more regularly, or you know what, this game we’re going to huddle up and change personnel every other play. I think that just kind of depends week-to-week.”