The biggest takeaway from those meetings? To pick up the tempo, they had to cut down on the chatter. Time was wasted as Brady spit out long play calls. Now, according to The Boston Globe, the Patriots use one of several one-word play calls in their no-huddle. That one words tells all 11 players what they need to do — who the offensive line blocks, where the backs line up, which routes the wide receivers run.
"They've learned through the college game some of the best ways to implement it into the pro game," said former Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an analyst for ESPN. "I don't know if I would use the word 'innovative,' I think they have just stream-lined it. … At this point, they are pioneering something in the NFL, which is super fast. People played fast before, but no one has ever played super fast."
Ed Dickson played three years under Kelly at Oregon, and those practices — loud music pumping as Ducks players flew up and down the field — were so frenetic, Dickson said further conditioning was unnecessary. Kelly's motto was "Win the Day," and he wanted to do it by running 100 plays a game. Dickson fondly remembers Oregon's opponents "grabbing their ankles or knees and gasping for air."
The Patriots don't go non-stop like Oregon, but Dickson sees traces of what Kelly, who was introduced as the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, preached at Oregon.
"It's a smart two-minute," said Dickson, who believes Kelly will succeed in the NFL. "It's not going haywire out there, saying 'We need to go score.' They know exactly when to slow it down."
What the Patriots are doing, sometimes snapping the ball with 20 or more seconds left on the play clock, has left defenders out of breath, but not without a loss for words.
In November, New York Jets linebacker Calvin Pace called the Patriots' tactics "borderline illegal." Texans linebacker Bradie James joked that he wasn't even sure the officials were set Sunday when Brady was snapping the ball. And while watching the Patriots' latest win on television, Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo ripped them on Twitter for running a "gimmick" offense.
"New England does some suspect stuff on offense. Can't really respect it. [It's] comparable to a cheap shot [before] a fight," Ayanbadejo wrote on his Twitter account, adding, "It's a gimmick."
Ayanbadejo has since apologized, but that won't remove it from Boston-area bulletin boards.
Slowing the Patriots down
However you want to classify what the Patriots do, stopping it is a concern heading into Sunday's game.
In Baltimore's 31-30 win in Week 3, New England went without a huddle on 38 of their 77 plays, and the Patriots scored two of their touchdowns after rushing to the line of scrimmage.
The Ravens defense has tightened up in the playoffs, allowing just 27 points in two games, but Ray Lewis and company have been on the field for a total of 185 plays the past two weekends. Harbaugh raved about his team's conditioning this week, but the Patriots may try to run the Ravens ragged.
Asked how the Ravens, who may try to blitz and batter Brady to knock him out of rhythm, could make life uncomfortable for the New England quarterback, Pees joked that they could "hire Tonya Harding" or spray the door on the Patriots bus with water "and hope it freezes." Pees then gushed about Brady, labeling him a Hall of Famer.
"He can give you this little boyish look on TV, but he is a very, very, very competitive guy," he said.
Lewis, the quarterback of the defense, is one of the game's most calculating minds when it comes to the pre-snap chess match. But no one in the NFL is moving the pieces faster than Brady right now.
"They are big into getting people out of position, and you watch the Houston game last week, a huge example of how they can confuse you and get you to line up not right, and then a touchdown is too easy," Lewis said. "You have to be able to look at them and say, 'Come play football.' "
Whether the Patriots' sneak attacks are a gimmick or truly an NFL innovation, the Ravens say that they are ready. Knowing that they are coming is half the battle. Stopping them is another challenge in itself.
"I couldn't care less about anything being a gimmick. They haven't been penalized on it," Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said. "That's just the game that they play. They're good at it, they're experienced and they know how to get it done. No. 12 is probably one of the best at it."
Brady is not the first quarterback to thrive in the no-huddle offense, but right now, he is running it the fastest.