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Water Cooler Quarterbacks: Denver's No Huddle vs Philadelphia's No Blink

A group of football fans discuss the "no-blink" offense

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The other day, several of my coworkers and I were standing around after school talking when the topic of conversation turned football. As we talked, we realized that we had fans representing six NFL franchises -- the Broncos, 49ers, Cowboys, Chargers, Dolphins and Browns (yes, the Browns fan admitted that she was one) -- as well as three people who identified themselves as "Anti-Patriots," "Anti-Steelers" and "Anti-Raiders." As we talked, it also came to light that among our small group, we had representatives of twelve different fantasy football leagues (please note, that most of the fantasy football players were in multiple leagues.). Finally, we recognized that one of our members is a high school football coach. We could talk about many things, but we could always talk about football. Thus, The Water Cooler Quarterbacks were born.

The first topic that I thought would be fun to share was one that has been an on-going discussion since Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season: the new, "no-blink" offense of the Philadelphia Eagles.

This came up as we were laughing over the "oohs" and "aahs" being heard from many sources over Philadelphia's running 77 plays in their first regular season game -- the typical NFL game usually only sees around 65 offensive plays by a given team. Words like "evolutionary" and "revolutionary" were being bandied about in the media after just one game. Lost in all of the expressions of appreciation for how exciting the Eagles' offense was was the fact that they did not run the most plays during the first week of the season. New England ran 89 plays in their first game. Baltimore ran 87. Detroit matched Philadelphia by also running 77 plays. Houston and San Francisco came close by running 75.

The question that was asked among our little group is "What did the Eagles DO with those 77 plays?" Well, let's take a look at what we found. We decided to take a look at other teams that posted similar results in Week 1. We used two criteria: (1)The team had to have scored 30 or more offensive points -- remember, this is a discussion about the offense, not whether or not the defense can contribute points, and (2)The team had to have won their game.

Three of the Week 1 winners met these two criteria. Houston and Dallas both won and they did put over 30 points on the scoreboard, but both of them had points put on the board by their defenses. The teams that met the criteria were Denver, Detroit, and San Francisco.

Phi Den Det SF
Plays 77 68 77 75
Off Points 31 49 34 34
Plays/Point 2.5 1.4 2.3 2.2
Yards 443 510 469 494
Yards/Play 5.8 7.5 6.1 6.6
Yards/Point 14.3 10.4 13.8 14.5
Drives 14 16 14 13
Scoring Drives 5 7 6 6
Drives/Score 2.8 2.3 2.3 2.2
First Downs 26 24 28 23
TA/GA Ratio +1 0 +2 +2
Time of Possession 32:39 26:12 36:19 38:35
Seconds/Play 25.4 23.1 28.3 30.9

Off Points = points scored by the offense (TDs, PATs, FGs); TA/GA Ratio = Take Aways/Give Aways ratio; leader in each category is shown in bold

We discovered that Philadelphia led this group in plays (though they were tied with Detroit) and that was it. Denver led the group in offensive points scored, yards, yards per play, the fewest number of plays needed to put a point on the board, the fewest number of yards needed to put a point on the board, and the average number seconds spent on each play. Detroit took the lead in first downs and tied with San Francisco for Give Away/Take Away ratio. San Francisco also led in the fewest drives needed to score and time of possession. These facts brought up an observation by our high school football coach. He pointed out that the Philadelphia offense was going to need three things to be effective.

First, the offense was going to need to put points on the board. In Week 1, the Eagles scored on 5 of their 14 drives. They put 31 offensive points on the board and then outlasted the Redskins for the win. In their Week 2 loss to San Diego, the Eagles put 30 offensive points on the board by scoring on 6 of their 11 drives. In their most recent game, versus Kansas City, Philadelphia ran 13 drives but scored on just 3 of them -- resulting in 16 points (due to a missed 2-point conversion attempt). Thus, the Eagles -- through their first three games -- have run 38 drives and scored on 14 of them.

The second thing that was noted was that Philadelphia's offense would rely upon a defense that was capable of consistently stopping the opposing team's offense. The Eagles held Washington to just 3 scores on 13 drives and won the game. They allowed the Chargers to score on 7 of San Diego's 11 drives and lost. They did a little better against Kansas City, giving up just 5 scores on 14 drives, but still lost. It is also important to note that Philadelphia has been outscored 36-17 in the fourth quarter.

The final component needed would be an ability to control the clock, especially late in the game. This is, perhaps, the area where the Eagles have struggled the most. The Eagles not only ran a plethora of plays against Washington, they also controlled the clock, gaining a 32:39 to 27:21 advantage in time of possession. They even controlled the ball for nearly half of the fourth quarter (7:02 to 7:58). However, the next two games were radically different. Philadelphia lost the time of possession battle (and the game) to San Diego 19:43 to 40:17 (and 5:01 to 9:59 in the fourth quarter). This means that the Eagles' defense was on the field for two-thirds of the game. The game against Kansas City was not much better as Philadelphia surrendered the time of possession advantage 20:53 to 39:07. The worst part of that tale is that the Eagles held the ball just 2:17 in the fourth quarter.

We all agreed that while the Eagles are fun to watch, they may well not be in a position this year to "revolutionize" the NFL offense.

Now, this being a Broncos-oriented blog, and given the fact that Denver will soon be playing Philadelphia, what does this mean for the Broncos? Let's compare what the teams have done thus far.

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Season to Date
Phi Den Phi Den Phi Den Phi Den
Plays 77 68 58 72 63 73 198 213
Off Points 31 49 30 34 16 37 77 120
Plays/Point 2.5 1.4 1.9 2.1 3.9 2.0 2.6 1.8
Yards 443 510 511 416 431 536 1385 1462
Yards/Play 5.8 7.5 8.8 5.8 6.8 7.3 7.0 6.9
Yards/Point 14.3 10.4 17.0 12.2 26.9 14.5 18.0 12.2
Drives 14 16 11 14 13 11 38 41
Scoring Drives 5 7 6 6 3 6 14 19
Drives/Score 2.8 2.3 1.8 2.3 4.3 1.8 2.7 2.2
First Downs 26 24 22 23 21 31 69 78
TA/GA Ratio +1 0 +2 +3 -5 -2 -2 +1
Time of Possession 32:29 26:12 19:43 28:02 20:53 35:24 73:05 89:38
Seconds/Play 25.4 23.1 20.4 23.4 20.8 29.1 22.1 25.2

It would appear that despite the Eagles' emphasis on running plays quickly, they hold only a slight edge over Denver's no huddle offense in regards to the speed at which their plays occur. What is more important is the result brought about by those faster plays. The Broncos have logged 43 more points than Philadelphia's offense and, on the average, have taken fewer plays per points.

For the upcoming game, Denver's defense will need to work on containing Michael Vick and the rushing attack -- something which they should be able to do, given that they are currently leading the NFL in fewest rushing yards surrendered at 43.3 yards per game. It will be imperative for the Eagles' offense to put points on the board with nearly every possession, given that their defense ranks 26th in points surrendered. This may be a tall task for the opposing team. The Denver defense should be able to slow down the Eagles' offense. Philadelphia's offense is averaging 26.3 points per game. The Broncos' defense is surrendering an average of 23.7.

It is unlikely that Philadelphia's defense will be able to consistently slow the Broncos' offense. The Eagles have been giving up an averaging 28.7 points per game and will be facing a Broncos' offense that has been averaging 42.3 points per game.

The Water Cooler Quarterbacks wish everyone a great week of football.

Go Broncos!!!