With an 0-4 record staring them in the Washington Redskins in the face, Kyle Shanahan decided it was time to try something different.
The 0-3 Redskins trailed the Raiders 14-0 late in the first quarter. At that point the offense had mustered just one first down in three possessions. Washington had the ball at its own 20.
Shanahan figured it was time to pull out something they have had in their arsenal since training camp. After talking to head coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Robert Griffin III, Kyle called for the offense to go in no-huddle mode.
“It's something that we talked each week that there's a possibility we could go with it,” Kyle Shanahan said yesterday. “We knew that we wanted to, we were struggling a little bit at the beginning, not converting those third downs and staying on the field and we thought it would be a good time to try it.”
Things started out with Griffin making a play-action fake to Alfred Morris and zipping a 15-yard pass down the middle to Leonard Hankerson. They immediately lined up, snapped the ball 19 seconds after Hankerson was tackled, and Griffin handed to Morris, who picked up eight off right tackle. Twenty seconds later Morris picked up the first down by going up the middle for three.
The quick pace continued:
- 16 seconds later, play action-bootleg right pass to Hankerson for 15 yards.
- 19 seconds, Morris off the left side for nine yards
- 22 seconds, Morris to the right for eight yards
- 17 seconds, play action-bootleg left pass to Niles Paul for 16 yards
- 38 seconds, pass to Pierre Garçon for two yards to set up second and goal at the four.
On that last play, they went no huddle but it appeared that Griffin was changing the play at the line, not an easy thing to do in the “Black Hole” end of the Raiders’ stadium.
That play ended the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, Griffin was called for intentional grounding, a penalty that cost 14 yards and the Redskins ended up settling for a field goal.
In the six no-huddle plays starting with the second play of the drive and ending with the pass to Paul, they averaged just shy of 19 seconds in between snaps. They gained 59 yards. There were no third-down conversions because they didn’t face a third down until after the grounding penalty.
They ran the hurry-up here and there after that, including a stretch during their 2-minute drill near the end of the first half. They cranked it up again for a few plays in the third quarter and it appeared to jump-start their game-winning drive.
Starting at their own 42 with 6:51 left in the third, Paul made a diving catch of a four-yard pass in the flat. The Redskins made some substitutions, taking Paul out and putting in another receiver but still got off the next snap in 20 seconds. Morris picked up a couple of yards but the Redskins accepted an offside penalty, negating the play. Even with the time needed to enforce and announce the penalty, they still got off the snap 32 seconds after the previous play had ended.
Morris spun out of some trouble at the line and made his way up the sideline for 13 yards. They lined up quickly, Griffin again appeared to call and audible, and the ball was snapped after 33 seconds. The Raiders’ Mike Jenkins was shaken up on the play so the Redskins could not hurry back up to the line. Then Griffin threw back across the field deep to Davis and play again was stopped as the officials briefly huddled to decide to pick up a pass interference flag because the ball was uncatchable.
They went back to the huddle after that. Four plays later, Griffin threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon to give the Redskins their first second-half lead of the season.
“They weren't ready for it, something we hadn't done before so I'm sure they didn't have a big plan against it,” said Shanahan. “I'm not exactly sure, I think we had about 19 hurry up plays and it really got our run game going I thought.”
The part about getting the running game going seems to be accurate, particularly when talking about Morris. Before leaving with a rib injury late in the third quarter Morris carried 16 times for 71 yards. During just the two hurry-up sequences outlined here he carried five times for 41 yards. Doing the math, that’s 8.2 yards a carry in the no huddle and 2.7 yards per carry the rest of the game.