clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Balanced Offense in the NFL

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

When NFL pundits and coaches talk about offense, they pretty much all agree that the most preferred offense is a “balanced” one.

Well, in today’s NFL what would one consider a balanced offense?

There are a couple of ways of looking at it.

Check out what offensive innovator Mike Leach of Washington St. says about balanced offense:

The way Leach looks at it—-if all 5 skills players on offense get a fair amount of touches—-that’s the kind of balanced offense he wants.

The Cardinals’ new head coach, Kliff Kingsbury pretty much agrees with this message.

Leach says that the general thinking of a balanced offense as 50/50 pass/run is “delusional.”

Except—-when it isn’t.

Take, for example, what the Patriots did last night versus the Chiefs. They passed the ball 46 times for 348 yards and 1 TD and they ran the ball 48 times for 176 yards and 4 TDs.

That’s about as balanced in the 50/50 sense as one could imagine. In fact, it almost was literally 50 passes and 50 runs.

But—-as Mike Leach would point out—-one of the most balanced aspects of the Patriots’ offense last night was that 3 rushers and 8 receivers got touches.

The Patriots typically want to run the ball almost as much as they pass it—-but—-what their offense is predicated on is taking what the defense gives them. Josh McDaniels knew that the Chiefs were 31st versus the run this season. Thus, rushing the ball was a smart priority—-and it allowed the Patriots to dominate the time of possession and thereby keep the Chiefs’ high powered offense on the frigid sidelines for long stretches.

One would imagine that McDaniels will have a whole different game plan for the Rams—-who held the Saints to a paltry 48 yards rushing yesterday. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Patriots pass 75% of the time versus the Rams—-or possibly even higher.

Yet, what the Patriots will do is try to do as Mike Leach suggests, spread the ball to all 5 skills positions.

Yesterday’s balance numbers:

The Rams—-passed 41 times for 301 yards—-rushed 26 times for 77 yards—-with 3 rushers and 8 receivers.

The Saints—-passed 41 times for 242 yards—-rushed 21 times for 48 yards—-with 4 rushers and 9 receivers.

The Chiefs—-passed 31 times for 295 yards—-rushed 12 times for 41 yards—-with 1 rusher and 7 receivers.

Notice that the Rams fared the best of the three—-and at the end of the day, they won with significant help from the refs—-and they won largely because of their special teams. The fake punt pass from Johnny Hekker to Sam Shields and the game winning 57 yard FG from Greg Zuerlein were the two best highlights.

As far as the kicking game went yesterday—-in a season where so many games were lost by poor kicking—-every kicker was perfect in the championship games:

Rams—-Zuerlein: 4/4 FG, 2/2 XPT

Saints—-Lutz: 3/3 FG, 2/2 XPT

Patriots—-Gostkowski: 1/1 FG, 4/4 XPT

Chiefs—-Butker: 1/1 FG, 4/4 XPT

Interesting stat: the two winning teams, the Patriots and the Rams are in the top 5 in the NFL for cap spending on special teams.

Would love to see the Cardinals make a run for UFA K Robbie Gould (49ers)—-if he doesn’t get the franchise tag.

So, what does the NFL’s current trends with regard to a balanced offense mean for the 2019 Arizona Cardinals?

Kliff Kingsbury ran the ball more often at Texas Tech than most observers would imagine. He likes to run a variety of misdirection plays out of the shotgun.

But Kingsbury needs to do what the Patriots do—-assemble a deep talented group of skill players (RBs, WRs, TEs). Kingsbury covets speedy RAC WRs—-which should be a focal point of his acquisitions.

Kingsbury also covets athletic dual-purpose offensive linemen who can fan block on passing plays, gain leverage on running block angles and who can slip blocks and get downfield in a flash on a variety of screen passes.

This fits very keenly with the Patriots’ offensive prototypes. It’s no wonder why Bill Belichick and Tom Brady speak very highly of Kliff Kingsbury. They are of like minds when it comes to building an offense.

But, with regard to the balance that NFL offenses are seeking these days, Cardinals’ fans can think back to the days Kurt Warner was under center. Warner had a penchant for using his entire stable of skill players—-and often liked to throw the ball to the #4 or #5 WRs on the roster because he knew they would be covered by the #3 or #4 CBs.

Kurt Warner made Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban household names in Glendale.

We have already seen Mike Leach’s type of balanced offense in Arizona when Warner was in his hay days—-and now, with Kliff Kingsbury on board, we can hope for an offensive Renaissance.