Many are in hurry to, but no one can copy Bills' no-huddle attack

Pro football

September 05, 1991|By Ken Murray

Nobody does it better than the Buffalo Bills. But everybody will try, nonetheless.

The rage of the 1990 season -- the Bills' no-huddle, hurry-up offense -- is proliferating in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered the latest variations on the Bills' theme last week, albeit with not quite so smashing results.

The Vikings got a field goal out of their first no-huddle drive and amassed 331 total yards, but lost 10-6 to Chicago. The Bucs, using the offense extensively, gained a more modest 277 yards in a 16-13 loss to the New York Jets.

Kansas City opened its game against Atlanta in the no-huddle, got no points and then went to a more conventional offense. Denver also used the no-huddle attack briefly Sunday, and Cincinnati has had it in the playbook for a few years.

"The main reason we got into it," said Chiefs president Carl Peterson, "is that we have a very experienced quarterback who does an exceptional job of his own play-calling. Steve DeBerg has a very thorough understanding of our offense, and is very good at play-calling at the line of scrimmage."

Given Buffalo's success and the NFL's penchant for copying success, Peterson said, "You'll see more and more teams doing it."

The Bills, meanwhile, rolled up 583 yards and five touchdowns using the hurry-up system in a 35-31 triumph over Miami. There is no copycat-ing those numbers.

* FEELING THE HEAT: San Diego Chargers coach Dan Henning pressed the panic button this week when he fired offensive coordinator Ted Tollner one week into the season. Already this year, Henning has criticized his defensive coordinator, Ron Lynn, and saw deposed starting quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver traded to Atlanta for a fifth-round draft pick.

Ironically, the Chargers had given Tollner play-calling responsibilities this season after the Dallas Cowboys had tried to hire him as their offensive coordinator.

Henning stripped Tollner of his play-calling duties in the fourth quarter of a 26-20 loss to Pittsburgh. To Henning's credit, the move produced 17 points and a late, but futile, rally.

"Don't you think drastic times call for bold moves?" Henning said, explaining the firing.

The Chargers are 0-1, which is hardly drastic. But Henning knows his job is on the line and a poor start could make him the first coaching casualty of 1991. It won't get any easier, either. The Chargers play in San Francisco Sunday.

* EAGLE FALLOUT: The Philadelphia Eagles will feel the impact from the loss of injured quarterback Randall Cunningham in different ways. For coach Rich Kotite, it lessens Super Bowl expectations. For second-year wide receivers Calvin Williams and Fred Barnett, it may mean fewer deep passes.

Jim McMahon, who takes over at quarterback, has neither Cunningham's arm nor his agility. In the face of the pass rush, the former Bears hero will dump off to his backs or tight end. Cunningham often bought more time for his wide-outs by scrambling.

"I think we'll still be going deep a lot," said Williams, a product of Baltimore's Dunbar High. "We just have to give [McMahon] time to throw. He's not a scrambler, so he's going to need protection."

The bad news is that the Eagles' offensive line was a weak link to start with. And McMahon has had an injury-riddled past that includes a lacerated kidney, rotator-cuff surgery and two knee surgeries. It is hard to imagine McMahon, at 32, being able to play 16 games. Which makes it all the more curious the Eagles signed Pat Ryan as a backup this week. Ryan hasn't played since the 1989 season.

* ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? Dick MacPherson, the 60-year-old rookie head coach with the New England Patriots, got caught up in the fervor of a 16-7 victory over the Colts. Charging up and down the sideline, MacPherson punched his quarterback, Tom Hodson, several times and once tried to head-butt nose tackle Fred Smerlas, who happened to be wearing a helmet at the time.

Said Hodson, "Here's a 60-year-old guy giving me piston shots. It's kind of refreshing. It's what we need."

Despite falling on hard times of late, the Patriots have found a patsy in the NFL. They have won just three of their last 21 games, and all three came at the expense of the Colts.

* TOUCHE: Atlanta cornerback Tim McKyer was beaten but unbowed after Kansas City's defense recorded seven takeaways in a 14-3 win. "Until they play man-to-man [coverage] and not zone, Kansas City's secondary won't get my respect," said McKyer, who is playing on his third team in five years.

To which Chiefs cornerback Albert Lewis replied, "All he's proved to me is he can make the all-airport team."

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