SI Vault
Paul Zimmerman
September 08, 1980
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.
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September 08, 1980


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Finally, Louie Kelcher, San Diego's 280-pound defensive tackle, clears his throat.

KELCHER: Why, it would plumb wear me out, that's what would happen. Lawd, Lawd, I hate to even think of it. You'd never catch your breath.

Al Davis, Oakland owner: It would be racehorse football. Not a bad idea, really. Everything would happen so fast, the defense wouldn't be able to get their calls from the sidelines. If the other teams knew you had racehorse football in your plan, it would force them to practice against it during the week. Of course, it would take a lot of courage to use it in a game. Bill Walsh tried it with the 49ers last year, but you've got to have the people to make it go.

Bill Walsh, San Francisco coach: We'll probably do a little of it again this year, but you have to be careful with something like this. An offense can run itself out of steam pretty early.

Marv Levy, Kansas City coach: I've done it in college, but not here. You just can't duplicate a two-minute situation when you're in the middle of a game. In a real two-minute offense, you're not as worried about an interception. You'll take a chance. Also, at the end of a game you're in a four-down situation, not a three-down; you're not going to punt on fourth down in the last two minutes. It's tough to run a two-minute drill when you have only three downs to work with. You can run out of downs awfully quick.

FAN: O.K., I get the picture, but I don't buy it one bit. I think if you can force the defense into a three-man rush, a prevent situation, early in the game, you're accomplishing something.

Joe Theismann, Washington quarterback: As a quarterback, I'd love to play against pure prevent all the time because it's easier to throw into.

FAN: Hold it. Let's define what we mean. I know that when a team goes with three or four wide receivers, the defense has to bring in an extra defensive back or two to cover them. What I'm talking about is teams rushing only three men—against five blockers—and giving the quarterback all that time.

Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh quarterback: If I have time to throw, I know I should complete the pass, no matter how many people are back there.

George Martin, New York Giants defensive end: Joe and Terry are dead right. Dallas beat us in the last few minutes last year because we rushed only three and gave Staubach time. God, I hate that three-man rush. You're just spinning your wheels.

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