Colt’s will throw no huddle at Bears

Published 1:24 am Sunday, February 4, 2007

There’s no hiding from the no-huddle at the Super Bowl.

And there’s no fear of the no-huddle for the Chicago Bears.

They understand what they will face on Sunday. They know Peyton Manning will bring the Indianapolis Colts to the line of scrimmage almost immediately after the previous play concludes, survey the scenery and choose a play that befuddles the defense.

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Except the Bears won’t panic, won’t have their heads spinning and won’t be gasping for air. They swear.

“I mean it’s just you don’t get a chance to huddle up,” cornerback Nathan Vasher said. “We have signals, other ways of getting different defenses. We don’t have to just stay in the same defense when they go no-huddle. I think that’s a luxury we have as a defense and we practice on that. This won’t be the first no-huddle team we played this season, and I think we’ll adjust to it well, just to go out and make plays.”

The Bears will need to make those plays at times without being able to substitute. They’ll have to adjust to the quick tempo Manning and his mates covet. And, perhaps most daunting, they might have to out-think the maestro.

“He puts in the work and it shows on the field,” added the other starter at cornerback, Charles Tillman. “He knows what you’re going to do before you actually do it. So you just have to try to disguise as much as you can and see if you can surprise him a couple of times.”

The element of surprise often is eliminated by the element of speed. If the Colts can operate on a quick pace, it complicates an already complex challenge for Chicago. Slowing the Indy offense is difficult enough with Manning, Pro Bowl receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, tight end Dallas Clark, running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes and a strong offensive line. Thwarting it at warp speed with the same 11 players for an entire series could be too much to ask.

Forget all of Manning’s histrionics at the line: the pointing, the backing off, turning around to instruct teammates, slapping his helmet, calling out signals — false and real.

The true beauty of the no-huddle is how it can force defenses to be imbalanced against one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses.

“Tom Moore has given me more freedom and trust and more responsibility,” Manning said, referring to the Colts’ longtime offensive coordinator, the only one Manning has played for in nine seasons. “Meanwhile, I can call some of my plays and I have the ability to change plays — that’s more responsibility.

“Of course, if you change to one that does not work, you feel so much more responsible for that. So maybe you try harder to make it work.”

It’s worked very well since Manning came into the league as the No. 1 overall pick and started from Day 1 as a rookie in 1998. The no-huddle has been a part of the scheme for much of his career.

He likes it, the coaches like it, even the linemen like it.

“We like the tempo it gives us,” Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday said. “We feel like we can wear teams down. There’s just a lot of things about it that really fits our style.”

They even get a chuckle out of the confusion it can cause for defenses. “Sometimes you see a receiver wide open and you know why,” Saturday said. “But most of the time they set up quickly. They don’t want to beat themselves.”

Which the Bears (15-3) don’t often do.

In this Super Bowl, the no-huddle could be even more of a factor because the Bears want to get certain players on the field for pass defense, attempting to match up with the Colts’ deep offense. Naturally, Indianapolis (15-4) doesn’t want to allow that.

While Chicago is fortunate to have two outstanding linebackers with a variety of talents in Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, it must have the right personnel on the field in other positions against Manning and his buddies. “I think the biggest change that goes on continually, and that’s why you have to keep up to date, are all the substitution packages,” Moore said. “Defensively, they are running substitutes in the game all the time. Substitution patterns and getting your blocking and protections squared away, that’s a constant thing that keeps advancing.”