Yesterday my colleague Kris Jones wrote that the Ravens should eliminate or severely curb the employment of the team’s “sugar huddle” approach.
Kris opined that the Ravens underutilize two of their best players due to their growing dependency on the fast break attack and that underutilization challenges clock management (the Ravens are last in the NFL), thus keeping a struggling defense on the field far too long.
Good points for sure but from my vantage point, it’s not quite that simple.
Clearly the Ravens do not run the ball enough given one of the game’s top 5 tailbacks and the game’s best fullback. But is the culprit really the sugar huddle?
Flacco is clearly more comfortable in the sugar huddle. He looks more in command and it helps to keep opposing defenses off balance and it helps to minimize the defensive situational personnel substitution packages.
Both are advantages to the offense.
That said there is nothing that suggests the Ravens can’t run the ball more frequently and manage the clock more efficiently even if the offense is flavored in sugar.
This season Ray Rice’s touches per game are at a career low since he took over as the team’s featured back in 2009. On the road Rice averages 18 touches while at home that number picks up to 20.3. Both numbers are down from 2011 when he averaged 19.6 touches when the team traveled and 26.3 touches at M&T Bank Stadium.
It’s interesting how much less involved Rice is at home than on the road. Since ’09 on average his number is called 15.5% more at home than on the road. You might think the Ravens would take the opposite approach or at least a balanced approach when racking up frequent flyer miles. After all, nothing can silence an opposing crowd like an effective running game.
If you need proof, revisit the game when the Ravens hosted the Cowboys.
Time of possession as Kris pointed out, is clearly an issue. Whenever you have a defense that can’t effectively stop the run, the best defense just might be a ball controlling offense.
But can’t you have it both ways?
Can’t you be an attacking offense but still control the clock?
Look at the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. Both run their own versions of the no-huddle yet they are ranked 5th (31:52) and 10th (31:28) respectively in time of possession (T.O.P.). Moreover, the Patriots are second in the league in rushing attempts per game (34.5).
And neither team has a particularly good defense.
New England is ranked 23rd while the Falcons are ranked 20th.
So you see the sugar huddle offense can balance the run and pass while managing the clock.
You just need game managers with a sensible sweet tooth in place.