ST. LOUIS — Listen to Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis talk about the difficulty that defenses face against hurry-up offenses and you wonder why offenses ever want to huddle.
“When teams are going quick like that, the first thing you’re just trying to get the call (for the defensive formation) half the time,” says Laurinaitis, who as middle linebacker is in charge of making the calls. “It limits your awareness of what you’re going to be getting (from the offense) because you don’t have 15 seconds to sit there and go, ‘OK, they’re doing this motion.’ By the time you get a peek of what they’re doing, they’ve already snapped it. It’s a huge disadvantage to a defense.”
Going to the hurry-up worked for the Rams’ offense in each of their first two games, helping them overcome an 11-0 deficit to beat Arizona 27-24 in their opener and last week when they rallied from a 21-0 deficit but still lost to the Falcons 31-24.
But even after some success, coach Jeff Fisher isn’t planning to use the hurry-up any more than he has to.
“You do it early in the ball game against a guy like (Falcons quarterback) Matt Ryan and go three-and-out, you’ve got problems,” Fisher says. “You’re putting him back on the field all the time.”
While such an outlook isn’t the most positive — after all, your offense doesn’t have to go three-and-out — there still is little reason to believe the Rams would be better off overhauling their offensive style two weeks into the season. Three reasons:
* Against the Falcons, the hurry-up worked in part because the Falcons’ defense went to more of a bend-but-don’t-give-up-the-big-play approach after they took a three-touchdown lead.
“They were playing a pretty soft zone (coverage), so it was easy to get a lot of completions,” he says.
*While the hurry-up has helped them, the sample size remains small.
* If the Rams had a lead, they wouldn’t want to run the hurry-up because doing so could actually slow down the clock.
According to Laurinaitis, the most dynamic offenses keep defenses on their heels by switching up the tempo of their attack.
“The worst is when you’re playing a guy like Peyton (Manning) and he’ll quick you, quick you,” Laurinaitis says. “You’re trying to get lined up and you’re thinking we’re going to throw a pressure on him right here. Then he fake counts and (the defense) shows exactly what they’re in. He sits there like, ‘OK, now I’m going to change the play.’ The slow-down, hurry-up effect can mess with you.”
If the Rams want to use more hurry-up, Fisher isn’t likely to hear any complaints from his players. Most have some experience with it. Bradford used a no-huddle at Oklahoma and won a Heisman Trophy. Receiver Tavon Austin set all kinds of yardage-gained records running the hurry-up at West Virginia.
“When anyone does a no-huddle, it makes the defense have to be more vanilla,” receiver Austin Pettis says. “They can’t do as much disguising. Teams that are doing that are trying to get ‘tells’ for the defense to put (the offense) in the best position. We did that last game.”
Would you like to run it more? “That’d be interesting, definitely,” Austin says. “There’s a possibility we can be in it, there’s a possibility we might not. Just depends on how the game flow goes and what happens there.”
Leave it to the rookie Austin to understand how the ultimate decision will be made.
“If coach Fisher says we’re going to run it, we’ll run it,” Austin says. “If he says we’re not going to run it, we’re not going to run it.”
If Fisher has his way, the Rams will have a lead and won’t need to hurry up the offense.
Hurry-up not the same as no-huddle
With new Eagles coach Chip Kelly putting hurry-ups and no-huddles in the NFL spotlight, it’s worth pointing out the Rams look at the two approaches as being different.
“Your hurry-up is the end of the half or the end of the game where you’re in a hurry — it’s a two-minute offense,” Fisher says. “The no-huddle’s different as we perceive it. We went strictly to the hurry-up (against Atlanta) because in normal offense administration, we wouldn’t have the number of possessions to catch up.”
In a no-huddle, teams often won’t snap the ball until the play clock is in its final seconds, Fisher says. “In the hurry-up, you’re snapping it with 15-20 seconds.”
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.