The Bills offense looks to be a fast and aggressive offense that looks to challenge defenses with their speed and no huddle looks. Some say the new coaching regime took the notion of a fast-paced offense from the successes of two minute drill offenses. It seems that two minute drill offenses are extremely efficient, but are they really? What about fast, no huddle offenses?
The average NFL offense in 2012 averaged 5.41 yards per play. All offenses since 2010 has averaged 4.77 yards per play when operating with less than two minutes to go in the house. Those plays, however don't take the situation of the game into account.
The highest level of offensive efficiency during a two minute drill seems to occur when a team is trailing between four and seven points. During these situations, the NFL average since 2010 has been 5.55 yards per play.
The incremental increase in offense of efficiency (a 0.14 gain per play) isn’t sustainable in all offensive situations due to the fact that there is no offensive balance in these situations. Offenses trailing between four and seven points need to score quickly and don't have the luxury of running the ball. These offenses only run the ball about 15% of the time. That's a far cry from 42% the NFL saw last season.
The table below breaks down the average yards per play for all score states since 2010 compared to the average yards per play in 2012, to serve as a benchmark. As you can see, two minute offenses don’t really provide a substantial advantage over normal offenses.
All 32 teams have fairly similar yards per play numbers when looking at every play throughout a given season. The range in 2012 was roughly 2 yards per play with Arizona averaging 4.1 yards per play and Washington at 6.2 yards per play. That range almost doubles when looking at two minutes offenses trailing by less than seven points. This is where the great offenses and the bad offenses distinguished themselves.
So how does this apply to the 2013 Buffalo Bills? Clearly, the team won't be playing with the same amount of urgency as a team that is facing a crushing defeat. However, they will be playing with an increased focus on controlling the tempo of the game. The two minute drill offenses prove that when run effectively, they have the ability to be more efficient than the average offense. To get a greater understanding of how a fast offense could potentially operate, we should try to examine all no huddle situations.
Finding no huddle data is difficult because we are at the mercy of play–by–play scoring and could be potentially missing some portions of data. However, my findings determined that the New England Patriots ran a no huddle offense more than any other team since 2010. That sounds right, considering their tendency to try to catch defenses out of sync, so I trust that my data set is a reliable sample at the very least.
This dataset shows an average of 6.3 yards per play for all offenses operating out of a no huddle since 2010 after removing kneel downs, field goals, and spikes. That's quite a bit better than the 5.4 yards per run or pass play from the entire NFL last season.
The run-pass balance is a bit closer to normal than two minute situations, but still not balanced, as 70% of no huddle plays are passing plays. That’s not a huge at first glance, because you’d think a high percentage of no huddle plays occur during a two minute offense. That’s not necessarily the case. Two minute offenses only account for 9% of the no huddle plays in the last three seasons.
So how do the play types, passing and running, shake out in the no huddle? Better than all plays across the board (2012 averages were 6.25 yards per passing play and 4.3 yards per rushing play). The table below breaks down the total, rushing, and passing yards per attempt for the entire NFL, Buffalo Bills, and New England Patriots out of the no huddle since 2010.
The Bills look like the better no huddle team over the past three years. However, the Patriots ran almost seven times as many no huddle plays as the Bills in that time span. Teams began to prepare for New England’s no huddle offense, which forced them to mix more rushing plays into the mix. While it brought down their average yards per play, the Patriots were able to keep their no huddle offense effective overall. The table below shows the run-pass breakdown for the NFL, Bills, and Patriots on no huddle plays since 2010.
The Patriots found a way to keep a run-pass balance similar to normal plays in a no huddle format. That’s a result of taking advantage of personnel matchups and could be a reason for their increased effectiveness when passing out of the no huddle. But it’s impossible to discern whether that’s causation or correlation.
Another benefit of the no huddle offense is a decreased sack rate. In 2012, the defense recorded a sack on 3.54% of all run or pass plays. The 2010-2012 sack rate on no huddle plays was 3.11%. Because of the large sample size (32,888 run and pass plays in 2012), we can determine that the sack rate in no huddle plays is significantly decreased. And that’s with a higher percentage of passing plays!
No huddle offenses are more effective than standard plays. The new Bills coaching staff has caught on to this current inefficiency and the installation will be interesting to see.