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For 58 minutes the game grinds on as the teams probe each other's weaknesses, trying to establish a ground game to make the passing attack work, or a passing game to make the ground attack work, take your pick. Then the clock strikes 2:00, so to speak, and suddenly bombs start bursting in air. It's time for Two-Minute Football, the action part of any National Football League game, when the hurry-up offense meets the prevent defense and the quarterback goes head to head against such creatures as the nickel back and the dime back—and, yes, even the penny back. It's a time for keen eyes, sharp minds, cool hands and fast feet, but not a fluttering heart.
We have assembled this forum, comprising some of the finest minds in the NFL, because of the fan's right to know. Our topic is Two-Minute Football. Specifically, we will address ourselves to these questions: Why do you call a prevent defense a prevent when it doesn't prevent anything? And if the two-minute offense is so productive, why don't teams use it for all 60 minutes? Have we stated the questions correctly?
FAN: Yes. My complaint is this. The defense is shoving the offense around all day and they're pressuring the quarterback, then all of a sudden the bell rings, the clock says two minutes left, and they go into their prevent. They pull in their horns, rush only three guys and drop everybody else deep. If you ask me, they just handed the momentum over to the other team. Instead of controlling the game the way they have all day, the defense now is playing scared. So the other guys march right down the field on them when they haven't been able to do that all day.
Tom Landry, Dallas coach: I know it looks bad to the fans, but the percentages say you're better off in a prevent defense. They might move on you, but it gets very tough to score.
FAN: Well, how about your team? You rushed only three guys and dropped the other eight back on that play last year when the Rams beat you with a touchdown in the playoffs. But in your last Philadelphia game, you threw an all-out blitz at the Eagles on their last play and pressured Ron Jaworski into a bad throw.
LANDRY: Sometimes you have to gamble, just to shake the offense up. And the Rams thing was a fluke—a guy tips the ball, a guy misses a tackle...I don't even want to talk about it.
Cliff Harris, former Dallas safety: Percentages are percentages, and they say a prevent is correct. Besides, a team isn't going to open up against you and play home-run football until the last few minutes anyway.
FAN: But why not? That's what bugs me, this stodgy NFL approach. What would happen if a team went into its two-minute offense in the middle of the game, or even at the beginning? What if a team ran a no-huddle offense, a hurry-up, just to shake up the defense, to keep them from getting their signals in? What would happen, huh?