Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda first got the idea of a no-huddle offense in 1961 when he was driving in a car with fellow Washington Redskins assistants Abe Gibron and Bill McPeak.
"Abe said one day all the plays would be called at the line of scrimmage and there would be no huddle," said Marchibroda. "Since then, it has always stuck in my mind."
Marchibroda initiated his version of the no-huddle offense with the Buffalo Bills in the late 1980s, and put the offense on display Sunday for the first time at Memorial Stadium as the Ravens defeated the Oakland Raiders, 19-14.
Trailing 14-7 at the half, Marchibroda went with the no-huddle with 6: 50 left in the third period and the Ravens scored on their next three possessions, the last culminating on a 1-yard touchdown run off left tackle by halfback Earnest Byner with 7: 50 remaining to secure the victory.
Marchibroda said the Ravens won't use the no-huddle to start Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it will always remain in his arsenal.
"Maybe the Raiders were caught off-guard because we didn't use it in the preseason," said Marchibroda. "We had planned to use it earlier in the game Sunday, but when we moved the ball well on our first two series, I decided to stay with our base offense.
"There's no guarantee that you're going to win the game by using the no-huddle," he added. "There is nothing magical about the offense."
But the no-huddle fits the Ravens personnel quite well. It limits the amount of changes a defense can make after a play, and puts a lot of physical demands on the defense.
The Ravens like it because they don't have to make any wholesale changes in their starting unit. The Ravens can run from the basic pro set with fullback Carwell Gardner and Byner, or use a four-receiver set with Byner -- who is an excellent receiver -- running patterns along with tight end Brian Kinchen, who may have the best hands on the team.
"It's a disadvantage to the defense," said Ravens wide receiver Michael Jackson. "It doesn't give them time to run guys in and out to adjust to the different formations that we have. They have to respond quickly."
The Raiders were called for having too many players on the field twice Sunday because the removed players couldn't reach the sidelines before the snap.
The Raiders' defensive linemen also went into meltdown when the Ravens used the faster-paced offense.
"If you're not in shape, don't run the offense," said Ravens left tackle Tony Jones. "It requires the offensive line to be in good shape. I thought the offense caught up with them in the second half. The faster pace wore down their defensive line and slowed their rush."
There were questions about how quarterback Vinny Testaverde would handle the offense. The no-huddle requires a quarterback to call the play at the line of scrimmage, then audibilize if necessary. A quarterback may start the play with as many as 10 options.
BTC Testaverde was extremely successful running the team's two-minute offense during the preseason, and was just as comfortable operating the hurry-up Sunday. Testaverde was 9-for-18 for 113 yards before the Ravens went to the no-huddle, and 10-for-15 for 141 yards after it was implemented.
Testaverde seems to have found his niche.
"He really enjoys it," said Marchibroda. "Most people think the offense decreases a quarterback's time to make a decision and call plays, but it's quite the opposite. Now the quarterback has more time to look over the defense. Maybe that has helped him. Other than that, I can't explain it."
Marchibroda was one of the first to use the offense, although former Cincinnati and Tampa Bay coach Sam Wyche gets credit for being the first to make it a regular part of his Bengals offense in 1988.
Wyche used it more for a "quick snap" to catch defenses with too many players on the field during personnel changes. Marchibroda went with it to create mismatches for the Bills, first as an experiment in 1989, and then as the base offense by the end of 1990.
In the Bills' first 10 games of using the offense, Buffalo averaged 30.7 points and had an 8-2 record.
"When I was with the Redskins, I remember Sonny Jurgensen saying he had to say 13 things in the huddle to call a particular play," said Marchibroda. "Then when I coached here in Baltimore in the '70s I had an offensive line coach who just asked me to shorten how the plays were called.
"By the time I got to Buffalo we were numbering our formations," said Marchibroda. "That made it easy to develop this type of offense. It puts the quarterback in control. There is just no huddle."
The hurry-up certainly has its share of critics. Kansas City Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer says it doesn't allow a team to control the clock. He says teams become pass happy out of the formation and it puts pressure on your defense.
The noise level in domed stadiums also can be a problem.
"I've never had players come up to me to complain about not hearing plays," said Marchibroda. "This is not a two-minute offense because you can run or pass and there's no time limit to get to the end zone or score a field goal. It can be fast-paced or you can slow it down. It has worked for me."
On Sunday, it worked for the Ravens.
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers
Site: Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh
Time: 1: 05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WLIF (101.9 FM), WJFK (1300 AM)
Pub Date: 9/03/96