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Panthers prep for Bills' up-tempo offense

Posted Sep 12, 2013

After the Philadelphia Eagles unveiled their fast-break offense Monday night, talk quickly turned to how first-year coach Chip Kelly may revolutionize the NFL game.

But seven hours northwest of Philadelphia, first-year Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone will employ his own version of an up-tempo offense when the Panthers visit Sunday, an approach that is inspired by a Kelly but not that Kelly.

"You can look back and look at what Jim Kelly and Marv Levy did when they were here together with that offense or Boomer Esiason with what they did in Cincinnati," Maronne said. "I think people tend to forget that it's been done before. Not only has it been done before, but it's been done with success."

During Marrone's brief stint as an NFL offensive linemen in the late 1980s with New Orleans and Miami, Esiason and the Bengals employed what they called an "attack offense" that propelled them to the Super Bowl. The Bengals knocked off the Bills to reach the Super Bowl, and soon after Kelly and Co. launched the "K-Gun" offense that helped Buffalo reach the Super Bowl in four consecutive seasons.

Varying versions of the approach have come and gone through the years. But the latest wave has been more widespread as coaches like Marrone that had success using it in college join the NFL ranks and turn the reins over to quarterbacks like Bills rookie E.J. Manuel that had success using it in college.

"We like the tempo," said Bills running back C.J. Spiller, who thrived in an up-tempo offense at Clemson. "We want to always be attacking the defense instead of the defense attacking us. At the same time, we have to make sure we're getting the assignments down and doing the correct thing."

Up-tempo offenses can put a strain on opposing defenses, but Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is among those who believe the strain on the offense could make such an approach unsustainable over time.

Defenses may be more apt to make mistakes because they can't easily change personnel or calls, but the offense is in the same boat, and mistakes on that side are often more costly. And while the approach can take a physical toll on an opposing defense as a unit for that given week, Rivera wonders about the physical toll it will levy on an up-tempo quarterback week after week.

"The concern would be what happens if your quarterback gets hurt. Do you have two Michael Vicks, do you have two RGIIIs, do you have two Cam Newtons, two Colin Kaepernicks? I guess that's the question," Rivera said. "And there are some stretches where you go too fast and make a mistake, all of the sudden your defense is back out there and now your defense is getting worn down.

"As far as I'm concerned, I like the pace we play at. I like the things that we do."

Still, Rivera acknowledges the challenges that an up-tempo offense poses, something the Panthers experienced first-hand in a preseason game at Philadelphia and that they'll tackle again Sunday in Buffalo.

"Defensively, we've got to get used to it because we are going to see it a lot more," Rivera said. "If it works, we all may be growing that way, and if it doesn't work everybody will say, ‘I told you so.'

"Only time will tell."