The no-huddle offense wasn’t much of a factor for the Buffalo Bills in 2018, and they were the least successful team in the NFL when they did use it.
That’s no shock. The Bills ranked near the bottom on offense just about every way you want to slice the numbers. Add it to the list of ways the Bills’ attack can look to improve in 2019.
The Bills ran no-huddle on 75 plays for the season, which ranked 15th in the NFL and was just less than the league average of 79 plays, according to the analytics site SharpFootball.com. Fifty percent of those Bills no-huddle plays came in the fourth quarter, virtually all when they were playing from behind.
And the Bills were “successful” on just 35 percent of their no-huddle plays, according to SharpFootball. The site defines a successful play as one gaining 40 percent of the first-down distance on first down, 60 percent of the distance on second down and 100 percent on third down.
A noteworthy trend: The teams that drafted QBs in the first round all were among the least-successful no-huddle teams. After Buffalo, the Jets (with Sam Darnold) had the second-lowest success rate (38 percent), followed by Arizona with Josh Rosen (41 percent) and Cleveland with Baker Mayfield (44 percent). Baltimore, which started rookie Lamar Jackson for half the season, tied for sixth-lowest rate (45 percent).
Those rates should come as no surprise, either. Poor teams generally play farther behind the first-down sticks more often, making it harder to “succeed” on each play. Arizona, Buffalo and the Jets ranked 32nd, 31st and 29th, respectively, in yards gained per play. And rookie quarterbacks generally have less latitude and are less adept at checking into the optimal play at the line of scrimmage in a no-huddle attack.
The no-huddle offense is not utilized much in the NFL. Discounting the fourth-quarter when teams playing from behind are more often using no-huddle to try to catch up, teams averaged just three no-huddle plays per game in the first three quarters.
Teams ran no-huddle, on average, 7.6 percent of their plays in 2018, down from 8.6 percent in 2017 and 11 percent in 2016, according to the site.
A few teams stood out as proponents, however.
The Rams ran an NFL-high 171 no-huddle plays (10.7 a game). Second was Pittsburgh at 9.8 a game and third was Indianapolis at 8.75 a game.
New Orleans coach Sean Payton and Kansas City coach Andy Reid don’t like to run without a huddle. For the second consecutive year, Payton ran the fewest no-huddle plays (16). The Saints were third in the NFL in scoring. Kansas City, the top-scoring team in the NFL, ran no huddle just 24 plays, third fewest.
New England ran no-huddle less than the Bills, on 67 plays. But the Pats were successful on 64 percent of their no-huddle plays, third in the league (behind New Orleans and Atlanta).
In 2017, the Bills ran no-huddle on 48 plays last year, 10th fewest in the league.