Breaking Down a Successful 2-Minute Offense in the NFL
Whether it's to close out the first half on a good note or muster a comeback victory in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter, the two-minute offense is one of the greatest aspects of football.
It's a team effort that illustrates how well-prepared (or not) the players and coaches are when it comes to managing a frantic situation, which includes keeping track of time, timeouts and avoiding negative plays. These are the significant details that the coaching staff needs to peruse while asking themselves rapid questions as they are prepare to go down the field.
As explained by former Minnesota Vikings quarterback coach Alex Wood at westcoastoffense.com, the questions coaches should ask themselves include:
What is the objective before half? Score! Touchdown or field goal to gain some momentum for second half, or continue to build a lead.
What do you need to know to close out the game?
1) How many points do we need to win?
2) Touchdown or field goal ?
3) How many time outs do we have and how do we use them, etc. If we use them all, how do we control the clock?
Wood continued to explain the two-minute offense by reminding "ball carriers and receivers to get yardage and get out of bounds," which is a must in order to stop the clock and give the offense the best chance of communicating without having to hurry the pace.
One of the best quarterbacks in the two-minute offense in recent time has been Peyton Manning, who made a living of beating teams in the final minutes of games.
It was apparent that Manning and the rest of his offense in Indianapolis were very well-prepared, as they constantly threw two man combination routes that enabled the pass-catchers to get down the sideline and out of bounds.
An example of this came in 2010 against the rival Jacksonville Jaguars, who were leading by six points before they gave Manning the ball back with just over two minutes left and 77 yards to go in the fourth quarter.
The Colts receiver Marvin Harrison ran down the right sideline on a Go route, which he got great separation from the defender and created space down the sideline for Manning to drop the ball in. Once he caught the ball, he immediately went out of bounds, stopping the clock with just under two minutes left.
Subsequently, Manning dropped back, and as the pocket collapsed around him, he progressed forward into the vacated middle of the field, where he scrambled and picked up a first down to move the chains.
The one issue with this that one could point out is that the play clock kept running afterwards, but it is also important to note that Manning did not panic as the pocket collapsed around him, nor did he force a throw that could have resulted in a turnover. One may suggest that he should have thrown it away, but why throw away a down? It's equivalent to spiking a ball in that it's not efficient.
Following the pickup, Manning threw a short pass to Harrison, who ran an inside-breaking pivot route, took advantage of the poor leverage of the cornerback and ran it back outside out of bounds to stop the clock once again.
At this point, it was third and a manageable two yards to go for the Colts as they entered red zone, and their ability to manage situational football was about to be on display.
They could have looked to pick up a short gain and move the ball yard by yard, but they chose to attack the Jaguars defense vertically. Indianapolis could afford to do this because it was third and two yards to go, which meant it would have a manageable fourth-down as well if it came to it.
What they chose to do was run one of their top concepts that created a natural "rub" (defenders call it a "pick") on a defensive back, which freed up the inside receiver who ran a wheel route and caught the ball before going out of bounds to stop the clock.
After the big catch and a deflected pass on 1st-and-goal, Manning dropped back and was pressured prior to throwing the ball away, which was a smart decision because he could ill-afford to take a sack.
Finally, the Colts punched the ball into the end zone when Joseph Addai made his way through the trenches and fell across the goal-line.
The offense left time on the clock for the Jaguars, which isn't ideal because the opposition can get the lead back at the tail end of the game, but they did their job by driving down the field and getting ahead on the scoreboard.
Of course, Manning and his teammates are merely one example of what a successful two-minute offense looks like. As stated earlier, one may argue they left too much time on the clock and point to Tom Brady's two-minute offense against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6 as the ideal scenario.
Brady got the ball back in his hands with nearly two-and-a-half minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter and took the offense down the field 80 yards with one timeout and left only 22 seconds for the Cowboys.
The Patriots did things a little differently than the Colts did in 2010 by mostly attacking the middle of the field opposed to working the sidelines. The only time they did attack the sidelines was on a smoke route to Wes Welker, which was effective.
There is nothing wrong with working the middle of the field and killing clock if there is enough time to do so, which the Patriots were fortunate to have.
Indianapolis could have done the same against the Jaguars, instead choosing to play it safe and work the sidelines in order to make sure it had enough time to work the clock and not have to burn the lone timeout they had.
Both ways are correct and successful when it comes to working the two-minute offense successfully. The offense must practice their two-minute drill in practices leading up to the game and understand situational football.
New England and Indianapolis (under Manning) have been exceptional at the situational football of games for many years, which is a big reason why they were so successful. They know how many timeouts they have, how to manage the clock, play smart by working the sidelines and avoiding negative plays.
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