4 minute offense - comparing us and them

Winning teams find themselves in this situation fairly often - up by one or two scores with 6 or so minutes left to play in the game. If you can gain a couple of first downs, you can run out the clock. The Broncos call these "4-minute offense" situations. For the defense, it's do-or-die and defenses in these situation generally sell-out to stop the run, operating under the assumption that the offense is going to run the ball to burn the clock. This is where an offense's ability to gain "tough" running yards is paramount, but some offenses, like the Broncos, also use "safe" passes in these situations, in lieu of running the ball. As the Broncos found out last season, being able to "win" in 4-minute offense situations can be the difference between advancing and going home. How have the Seahawks and the Broncos fared in these situations this season.


The Seahawks found themselves in these situations 4 times during the season. Eight of Seattle's wins this year were blowouts (wins by 12 or more points). I'll look at all 5 of the "4-minute offense" games and see what they did and how they fared. This will include the playoffs.

@Carolina:. Seattle was up 12-7 with 5:25 and the ball on their own 8 facing the defense that would finish #2 in scoring. After Lynch got getting stuffed on first down for a loss of 5, Wilson completed passes for 12 (on 2nd and 15) and 13 (on 3rd and 3) yards to gain a first down. Lynch then ran behind the right guard for 2 and CAR took their second TO with 3:51 left on the clock. On 2nd and 8, Wilson completed a pass for 18 yards to Golden Tate. CAR did not take a TO after this first down and Lynch gained 5 yards on his next carry. On 2nd and 5, Wilson completed a play-action pass to Coleman for 11 taking the clock all the way down to 2:17 before running Lynch on first down for no gain. CAR took their final timeout at this point with 2:14 left in the game and only the 2-minute warning that could stop the clock. On 2nd and 10 with the box loaded and the gun on the line, Lynch broke a tackle and rumbled for 14. Seattle was then able to kneel-down and run out the clock. Wilson was 4 for 4 on the final drive and Lynch was able to move the ball well even with the Panthers selling out to stop the run.

vs Tennessee: Seattle got the ball back with 2:09 remaining in the game and a 20-13 lead. Lynch ran off the right end for 6 and TEN took their first timeout. On 2nd and 4, Wilson threw incomplete to L. Wilson stopping the clock with 1:58. On 3rd and 4, SEA chose to put the ball in Russell Wilson's hands for a throw. He threw incomplete to Baldwin, but the Titans were called for a neutral zone infraction giving the Seahawks a first down with 1:52 left on the clock. Lynch ran behind RT for 2 yards and TEN called their 2nd TO with 1:49 left on the clock. On 2nd and 8, Lynch went around the right end for 10, giving SEA a first down and allowing them to then run out the clock.

@STL: Holding a 14-9 lead SEA got the ball back at their own 40 with 8:28 left on the clock. I included this game even though there was 8:28 left on the clock. If SEA could have put together a TD drive it would have effectively put the game out of reach for the Rams. On first and 10, Wilson completed a play-action pass to Baldwin for 12. Lynch then got stuffed for a loss of 1 (the Rams led the league in stuff %). On 2nd and 11, Wilson completed a 4 yard swing pass to Lynch. On 3rd and 7, Wilson was sacked for a loss of 7 by Chris long. Seattle punted and downed the Ball at the 3 with 5:42 left in the game. The Rams, with backup QB Kellen Clemens leading the team, were able to move the ball all the way down to the SEA 6 where they had first and goal with 46 second left and two timeouts. The Rams were unable to score despite 5 goal-to-go plays with the game on the line.

vs NO (divisional): Leading 16-8 with 3:51 to play SEA got the ball at their own 38 after a missed FG. Wilson threw incomplete on 1st down. On 2nd and 10, Lynch went up the middle for 7. On 3rd and 3 Wilson hit Baldwin for a gain of 24. On 1st and 10 with NO stacking the box to stop the run and 2:48 left to play, Lynch broke off a 31 yard run around the left end for a TD. The extra point made it 23-8 and while NO would score another late TD and recover the onside, the Saints would run out of time before they could take a desperation shot into the endzone for the tie. Scoring a TD in the 4-minute offense is definitely a win for the offense even if very little time is taken off of the clock.

vs SF (NFCC): Up 20-17 the Seahawks got the ball back on their 40 after an interception with 7:37 left to play. Turbin was run behind the left tackle for 2 on first down. On 2nd and 8, Wilson threw incomplete intended for Baldwin. On 3rd and 8, Wilson completed a pass to Tate for 10 converting. Lynch gained 2 on 1st and 10 and SEA took their second TO with 5:10 left on the clock. On 2nd and 8, Wilson fumbled and recovered and offensive pass interference was called on Kearse costing the Seahawks 10 yards. On 2nd and 18, SEA ran Lynch around the right end for 3. On 3rd and 15, Wilson completed to Tate for 4 yards moving the ball down to the SF 29 with 3:43 left in the game. Hauschka hit from 49 to put SEA up 6 and the 49ers got the ball back after the KO return with 3:32 left on the clock at their own 22. SF had all three TOs and was able to move the ball down to the SEA 18 before the interception that effectively ended the game.

So in these 5 "4-minute offense" situations, SEA was able to run the ball to kill the clock twice, they got a FG once, they got a TD once and punted once. In all five cases they relied almost exclusively on Lynch running the ball (Turbin had one carry) and Wilson throwing the ball. I did find in notable that they choose to throw against the Panthers despite the potential for stopping the clock via incompletion. Of the 4 cases, only the STL game could be considered a failure of the 4-minute offense.


The Broncos had 5 games this year where we needed to run the 4-minute offense. We have 9 games that were blowouts (won by 12 or more). Here are the 5 Broncos games where the 4-minute offense was needed:

@ SD: Up by 8 the Broncos got the ball back on their own 19 with 3:26 left in the game. Moreno went behind Franklin for 6 on 1st down. On 2nd and 4, PFM completed for 12 yards to DT on a WR screen. Moreno went behind LV for 3 forcing SD to take their second TO. On 2nd and 7, PFM completed again to DT, this time for 9 yards and another first down. With 1:44 remaining on 1st and 10, Moreno ran behind Franklin again for 3 yards and SD took their final TO. Manning got their DE to jump, making it 2nd and 2 and then Moreno ran behind Franklin again for 7 to seal the victory.

vs KC: Leading 27-17, the Broncos got the ball their own 46 after the defense had turned the Chiefs over on downs with 2:50 left in the game. on 1st and 10 Moreno gained 3 behind Franklin. Dreessen jumped costing us 5 yards. On 2nd and 12 Moreno was stopped for a loss of 1 running behind LV. On 3rd and 13, Moreno gained 3 running behind Clark. The Broncos let the clock run down to 1:15 before calling a TO. Colquitt punted the ball twice (gunner out of bounds penalty on Bolden) and eventually KC got the ball back at their own 20 with 55 second left to play and no TOs left. Alice Smith proceeded to complete two passes for -6 yards while using up the rest of the game clock.

@KC: With a 7 point lead (35-28) and 6:25 to play in the game, the Broncos started at their own 10 after a holding penalty on the kickoff. Moreno gained two up the middle on first down. On 2nd and 8, Manning hit Decker on the right for 18. Moreno was stopped for no gain trying to run to the left end. On 2nd and 10, KnoMo was called for a false start. One 2nd and 15, Manning threw incomplete to DT but Sean Smith was flagged for pass interference moving the ball to the DEN 44. A blitzing Eric Berry dropped Moreno for a five yard loss on first down after which KC called their first TO. Clark was called for an illegal shift, and then, on 2nd and 20, Manning hit Moreno with a beautifully timed screen pass for 31 yards. Moreno did the worm-crawl after this while Manny got flagged for unnecessary roughness after the play. The Broncos then had 1st down at the 50 with 3:54 to play. Ball ran up the middle for 2 and KC called its 2nd TO. on 2nd and 8, Manning hit Ball in the hands and Ball dropped a pass that would have easily gone for a first down and kept the clock running. On 3rd and 8, Manning threw incomplete for Tamme stopping the clock with 3:41 left to play. From the KC 48, Colquitt launched a punt that was fair-caught by McCluster at the 8. KC was able to drive the ball down to the DEN 13 before turning it over on downs (Adams knocking down the ball that he could have caught) with 1:46 left to play. KC still had a small hope of getting the ball back, but Ball iced the game with a nice 28 yard run on 1st down and the Broncos were able to kneel-down after that.

vs SD (divisional playoff): With a 7 point lead (24-17), the Broncos got the ball back at the 27 after a "pop-up" kick by Novak (not an on-side kick) that was fielded by Holliday who quickly scooted out of bounds. After a false start by Beadles, Moreno was stopped in for a loss of 2. On 2nd and 17, Manning threw a low ball that went off of DT's hands for an incompletion. On 3rd and 17, with the game and possibly the season in the balance, Manning hit JT for a beautiful sideline route that gained 21. Moreno ran behind Manny for 3 on first down forcing the Chargers to use their second TO. One 2nd and 7 Moreno gained 1 yard behind Franklin causing SD to burn TO #2. On 3rd and 6, Manning again hit JT for a 9 yard completion forcing SD to burn TO #3. With 2:02 left on the clock, instead of running, the Broncos elected to throw a WR screen to DT which gained 3 yards. The two-minute warning stopped the clock with 1:57 left to play. on 2nd and 7 Moreno gained 6 behind some beautiful blocking by the right side of the OL. The Broncos let the cock run all the way down to 1:12 before calling a timeout. On 3rd and 1, Moreno went up the middle for 5 yards to ice the game.

vs NE (AFCC): Up 10 (26-16) the Broncos got the ball back when Decker recovered an onside kick at the DEN 49 with 3:06 remaining in the game. Moreno was out of the game with a rib injury so Ball was the back. Ball went up the middle for 3 on first down and NE called its first TO. One 2nd and 7, Manning hit Jacob Tamme in the flat and Tamme was able to rumble for 23 yards while making sure to stay in bounds. NE called their 2nd TO after that play. Ball gained 5 on first down and NE called their final TO to stop the clock at 2:41. On 2nd and 5 Ball gained another 3 yards up the middle. On 3nd and 2, Ball was stopped for no gain and the clock was stopped by the two-minute warning. On 4th and 2, Ball had a beautiful run that was superbly blocked on the right end for 5 yards. That run iced the game and a kneel-down later the Broncos were on their way to the Super Bowl.

So really the only two "failures" of the 4-minute offense were against the Chiefs. The other three games, the Broncos offense finished strongly and did not have to rely on the defense to hold at the end of the game. It is clear that Manning is not afraid to throw the ball in 4-minute offense situations. While the Broncos relied on Moreno to take the majority of the carries, Ball got enough carries and has proved himself enough that either back should be comfortable if they are called upon in the Super Bowl in a 4-minute offensive situation.

From a defensive standpoint, both defenses had situations where they were trying to protect a small lead late - "4-minute defense" if you will. Both defenses succeeded in protecting the lead, but only by the slimmest of margins (DEN @KC, SEA @STL and SF @SEA). All three games came down to a red-zone stop by the defense.

Other thoughts

Because of the importance of being able to run in 4-minute situations, there is one final stat that I'll look at for both teams: Performance in the 4th when the game is close (regular season stats shown)

For the season, the Seahawks only had three players control the ball on in the 4th quarter with the game on the line (up or down by 7 or less) - Wilson, Lynch and Turbin. Wilson was actually not very effective in these situations (outside of the CAR game)

Wilson - in the 4Q of close games (up or down 7 or less)
27 45 414 60 9.2 55 3 5 5 73.1

Wilson also carried the ball 12 times for 27 yards in 4th quarter close situations (22 yards came on 1 run). Compared to his QB rating overall for the year (101.2), Wilson was not good at all in the 4th quarter of close games. Five of his 9 picks happened in those situations. In fact he was at his worst in close games this year overall

FINAL MARGIN 0-7 130 214 1,573 60.7 7.35 80 9 6 24 85.7
FINAL MARGIN 8-14 18 29 235 62.1 8.1 32 3 0 3 122.1
FINAL MARGIN 15+ 109 164 1,549 66.5 9.45 60 14 3 17 117.7

In terms of running backs, only Lynch and Turbin got carries in the 4th quarter in close games (final score within 7)

Lynch 30 82 2.7 14 1 5 83 16.6 55 0 1 0
Turbin 4 32 8 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Lynch got the lionshare of the carries in these situations, but very often did not gain much in the way of yardage. Turbin was effective but only had 4 carries.

For the Broncos

Similar to Wilson, Manning was at his worst in close games with 6 of his 10 interceptions happening in close games. Both stats are a little misleading since neither the Broncos nor the Seahawks lost a game by more than 7 (Broncos losses were by 7,6 and 3 - Seahawks losses were by 7,6 and 2).

Peyton Manning

FINAL MARGIN 0-7 130 203 1,642 64 8.09 77 16 6 7 103.1
FINAL MARGIN 8-14 49 76 653 64.5 8.59 74 5 0 2 113.5
FINAL MARGIN 15+ 271 380 3,182 71.3 8.37 78 34 4 9 121.8

In the 4th quarter of close games, Manning performed like this

29 47 341 61.7 7.26 35 5 3 0 92.6

Manning's numbers in the 4th in close games are worse than his numbers overall, but his dropoff under these conditions is not as severe as Wilson's (well, duh, PFM is one of the best to ever play the position). I find it interesting to note that Manning did not get sacked once in the 4th quarter of close games.

When running the ball in the situations Moreno and Ball are the only two guys who got carries (Hillman had 1 carry for 0 yards)

Moreno 16 61 3.8 18 1 6 111 18.5 35 1 0 0
Ball 5 44 8.8 28 0 1 11 11 11 0 0 0

Similar to the Seahawks, Moreno got the bulk of the carries, but Ball's portion of the late and close carries was a larger chunk of the overall than Turbin's for SEA. Similar to Turbin, Ball was really effective in limited carries.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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