With the Indianapolis Colts bringing their up-tempo no-huddle offense to Lambeau Field on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers no doubt need their defense to be sharp and on top of its game.
But the Packers are hoping two other counter-measures will help limit Indy's effectiveness with the no-huddle as well - long, ball-control drives on offense, and a hefty dose of crowd noise.
From an X's and O's perspective, the Colts' no-huddle offense is designed primarily to do one thing, and that's reduce or eliminate the personnel substitutions the defense can make. All NFL defenses these days like to employ certain run stoppers on first down and pass rushers on third down, but the Colts' no-huddle forces opponents to pick one defensive package - or risk Peyton Manning calling for the snap with too many defenders on the field - and stick with it for an entire drive.
"It's really a chess match between him the defensive coordinator on our end," linebacker Brady Poppinga said. "He's going to see what we give him and he's going to take accordingly, so we're going to have to be ready for that and understand what he's looking for."
Where the lack of substituting can hurt a defense most is up front. If linemen get worn out, their ability to rush the passer and react to the run is diminished considerably, particularly as the drive goes on.
That's one reason the Colts have traditionally been so strong finishing drives in the red zone. They've ranked in the top 10 in touchdown percentage in the red zone each of the last four seasons, and thus far in 2008 they rank second, with 10 touchdowns in 14 trips (71.4 percent).
"That no huddle is a killer for the D-line," said defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who played against Manning and his no-huddle twice during his time in St. Louis. "We're definitely going to need some three-and-outs and some key stops, because he'll run that all day and the pace for a D-lineman is really hard if we don't them stopped."
One way the Packers can counter that pace is by controlling the ball on offense themselves, and the team had its best showing in that area last week in Seattle.
The Packers had scoring drives of 10, 15 and 13 plays against the Seahawks, controlling the ball for 19 minutes, 21 seconds on those possessions, which produced 17 points. That's how the Packers ended up nearly a full quarter on the plus side (37:26 to 22:34) in time of possession.
"That's exactly our mindset, to try to keep their offense off the field," receiver Greg Jennings said. "So we know we're going to have to sustain drives, we're going to have to be clicking on all cylinders.
"Anytime you can put together a drive with 15 plays, 10 or more plays, you're definitely coming together as an offense and you definitely have some things rolling in your direction."
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers noted the key factor in those sustained drives last week, and any week for that matter, was third-down conversions. The Packers converted 10-of-18 third downs in Seattle and are 17-of-31 (55 percent) over the past two games.
On the two long TD drives in Seattle, the offense was 3-for-3 on third downs on each drive. The 15-play, 84-yard TD drive that spanned nearly eight minutes of the third and fourth quarters was particularly impressive, as there were only two gains longer than 10 yards the entire march.
"Those are the best," Rodgers said. "On those, everybody on the field, you're feeling it. You get past 10 plays, you're starting to get a little winded, but you know the defense is feeling it even more. It kind of breaks their will when you go 85 yards, 15 plays, methodical.
"That's a backbreaker in that situation. You go up by two scores, you get your defense off the field for seven minutes on the clock, but it's probably more like 15-20 minutes in normal time, so that's a huge momentum swing for us and just a great feeling for our offense."
The Packers are also banking on the home Lambeau crowd causing some difficulties for the Colts' no-huddle. It's one thing to call plays on the fly with the home crowd complying to facilitate the communication, but it's another thing to pull it off without a hitch on the road.
Manning is also famous for, and incredibly skilled at, barking signals and changing plays at the line of scrimmage, no-huddle or not. So that's another element Green Bay's fans can make tougher for Indy's offense, provided 'G Force' is in full force.
"That's why we need the fans to crank it up when he is under center," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "They do a great job, but definitely on the road it is a bigger challenge, so we need to get them to scream all the way through the 40-second clock."