INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It was the right approach at precisely the right time Sunday in Houston, but Frank Reich is quick to offer a warning: don’t expect the his Indianapolis Colts to evolve into the second coming of the Jim Kelly-led Buffalo Bills or the Peyton Manning-led Colts.
The no huddle always will be a part of the offensive playbook installed by Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni, but will remain a prominent chapter, not the overriding philosophy.
“That’s not ultimately the vision of what we’re trying to build,’’ Reich said Monday. “It’s part of what we want to do, but that’s not the vision. We know it’s a weapon. We know it’s an effective weapon, especially with the quarterback that we have.
“Believe me, I love the no huddle.’’
Reich was introduced to it as a player in Buffalo in the early 1990s and had more than a few opportunities to run the lethal K-Gun as Kelly’s backup. He was part of Tony Dungy’s staff in the mid 2000s when Manning turned the no-huddle, up-tempo approach into a weekly nightmare for defenses.
Manning and the Colts, Reich recalled, “did it as well as anyone could do it.’’
Reich and Sirianni also enjoyed success in San Diego in 2014-15 with Philip Rivers running the show, sometimes as much as 70 percent of the time.
“We gained a lot of yards and we did a lot of good things,’’ he said.
Sunday in Houston, Reich dialed up the no huddle after his offense opened the game with four three-and-outs.
“We just felt like we needed a little boost,’’ he said after the game.
“Yeah,’’ Luck agreed, “tempo helped.’’
The slow start against the Texans was replaced by energy and productivity.
The first no-huddle drive began with seven Luck passes and six completions for 58 yards – the Colts’ first four possessions involved 12 plays that netted 31 yards – before he suffered an interception on a high throw that went through Zach Pascal’s hands.
After that: touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown. Luck passed for 399 yards. T.Y. Hilton accounted for 199 of those yards on nine catches.
The end result: Colts 24, Texans 21.
On this Sunday afternoon, turning to the no huddle unquestionably flipped the game’s momentum and re-energized the Colts’ playoff aspirations.
“But it’s not ultimately the vision of who we’re trying to be as an offense,’’ Reich said.
Allow him to explain.
“Back in the Buffalo days we did it for four years straight basically,’’ Reich said. “It was a long time.
“I just think when you do that, you’re building your personnel around that kind of a system.’’
Kelly’s Bills and Manning’s Colts reached ridiculous levels by keeping it relatively simple. They basically lined up their personnel, stuck with it and challenged defensive coordinators to deal with it. At his peak, Kelly had Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, James Lofton, Don Beebe, Keith McKeller and Pete Metzelaars. Manning was surrounded by Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley, Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark and Marcus Pollard.
“No one did it better than Peyton. No one,’’ insisted Reich. “We’re going to line up in two formations (two wideouts and two tight ends, or three wideouts and one tight end) . . . ‘Here’s our personnel and we’re not going to change because Peyton’s so smart.’
“There’s only so many ways you can line up and play coverage to those formations, so we’re going to take our chances that he’s going to be able to figure how to beat you. And that works and it certainly has stood the test of time.’’
But it’s not the chosen approach of Reich.
“Really the vision for our offense is to be more multiple,’’ he said. “By not being exclusively no huddle, we can move guys around.
“We can put T.Y. (Hilton) where we want to. We can put (Eric) Ebron (where we want). We can switch personnel groups. We can put offensive linemen in at tight end to throw the deep play-action shots that we put in.’’
That as the case on the play that really ignited things against Houston.
You remember Luck’s 60-yard strike to Hilton, right? It was first-and-10 at the Indy 34 midway through the second quarter. Hilton was lined up to the left, just inside Ryan Grant. Intent on providing Luck with the needed protection, Reich had Joe Haeg in as an extra lineman and Ryan Hewitt as a blocking tight end. Both were to the right of the formation.
Luck’s play-action to Marlon Mack bought another second, allowing Hilton to run his deep post.
“Ultimately we just think the best formula is to be multiple, to use all of your personnel and to create some schematic advantages that you can do by huddling,’’ Reich said. “And still because of our experience in the no huddle, because of the quarterback that we have, to know that we can pull that tool out – that weapon out – and use it in the proper way when needed.
“I just think it’s really the right way to do it.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51