FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New England Patriots always have been dangerous and fast-paced on offense. Now, according to the New York Jets, they're better and faster -- an "Oregon Ducks tempo," according to linebacker Calvin Pace.
And it's driving the Jets a little ducky as they prepare for Sunday's game in Foxborough.
"It's borderline illegal because sometimes the guys aren't always set when they snap the ball," Pace said Wednesday. "But it's smart. Why not hurry a team up? I wish we would do it. For a defense, it just puts pressure on you."
The Jets are trying to simulate the Patriots' up-tempo offense in practice, but it's not easy. When the scout-team offense finishes a play, it huddles to read the next play card, usually held up by an assistant coach. That takes precious seconds. When Tom Brady shifts into high gear, the Patriots' no-huddle attack operates at a breakneck pace.
Some Jets defensive players said they were struck by how quickly the Patriots ran their offense two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos. In that game, the Patriots ran 94 plays and compiled a team-record 35 first downs.
The Jets said Brady sometimes gets the snap before the defense has a chance to get set, allowing him to exploit vulnerable areas. They've seen the Patriots snap the ball with 22 seconds remaining on the play clock.
"It's very difficult,"
linebacker David Harris said. "You'll see defenses not even lined up and they're already running a play. They get a lot of extra yardage because of it. It causes guys to lose their mind. You can see it on film."
The warped-speed Patriots have run a league-high 473 plays, 39 more than the next team. And they're running them well, leading the league in total offense and scoring offense. They've produced at least 440 total yards in three straight games, tied for the longest single-season streak in the Brady-Bill Belichick era.
"It's flying, it's flying," defensive tackle Mike DeVito said. "You have to be ready for the express, hurry-up offense."
The Patriots' approach creates two types of stress for a defense. Obviously, it tests the opponent's conditioning. They also use the no-huddle to prevent teams from substituting -- a "trap," according to the Jets.
The no-huddle was on display against the Broncos, who took star pass rusher Von Miller off the field for a break and he ended up missing a long stretch. The Jets could get burned because they like to rotate their personnel in the front seven.
For example: If the Patriots convert a third-and-long with pass rusher Aaron Maybin on the field, they could shift into hurry-up mode, forcing the undersized Maybin to play run defense -- not one of his strengths.
"A lot of times, that's the purpose of it," safety Yeremiah Bell said. "They catch you in a grouping you don't want to be in."
A lot of the pressure will fall on Harris, who gets the play call from the sideline and relays it to his teammates. He'll have to do it quickly, trying to communicate it as players are scrambling to get into position.
"It's all on me," Harris said.
He said they have three rules when defending the hurry-up: Get lined up. Feet on the ground. Eyes on your keys.
Easy to say now. It'll be a lot harder at a frenetic pace, in a hostile environment. The Patriots' up-tempo attack, coupled with a dramatically improved rushing attack, is concerning for a defense still trying to find its legs after a terrible start.
"Hopefully, we can close them out of it by showing we can handle it," Pace said. "Hopefully, they'll start huddling back up."