Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee called it “one of the worst failed fakes of all time.”
Inquiring minds are dying to know just what exactly were the Colts thinking when they shifted out of punt formation to try a trick play on fourth down Sunday night. What transpired defied reasonable explanation, especially considering the Colts were trailing just 27-21 with more than a quarter to play. They were looking at a fourth-and-3 play at their own 37.
Reserve wide receiver Griff Whalen shifted to center. Reserve safety Colt Anderson lined up at quarterback. The other nine players shifted to the far right sideline. The New England Patriots had three men near the ball, the other eight aligned opposite the Colts near the sideline.
Whalen snapped the ball and Anderson tried to run for the first down but was smothered for a 1-yard loss. The Colts were called for an illegal formation penalty. The Patriots declined, took possession and drove for a touchdown to make it a two-score game.
The Patriots then hung on for a 34-27 win after the Colts scored a late touchdown but were unable to recover an onside kick.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said it was a “miscommunication” and refused to blame his special-teams players for the botched play.
“The punt play, again, I take responsibility there,” Pagano said. “The idea there, on a fourth-and-3 or less, shift to an alignment where you either catch them mis-aligned or they try to sub some people in, catch ‘em with more men in, 12 men on the field, and if you get a certain look, you’ve got 3 yards, 2 yards, and you can make a play.
“Again, we shifted over and I didn’t do a good enough job of coaching it during the week. Alignment wise, we weren’t lined up correctly, and then a communication breakdown between the quarterback and the snapper and that’s all on me. I take full responsibility on that. I didn’t do a good enough job of getting that communicated to the guys and obviously it played a huge factor in this loss, giving them the field position at the point in the game and the touchdown that resulted from that.”
Pagano was shown on the sideline asking his players why the ball was snapped. If the Colts didn’t get the look they had anticipated, why didn’t they just take a delay of game penalty and punt?
When asked what he said to Whalen on the sideline, the coach said that was between the two of them and he declined to give details of the conversation.
“It was just a miscommunication between all of us,” Whalen said. “We’ll take a look at it (on Monday) and get if figured out.”
Asked what the miscommunication was, if he was told to snap it, Whalen said, “Like I said, that was the part that was miscommunicated.”
McAfee said the play was worked on last year and then reinstalled this past week.
“You try to confuse the defense and hopefully get an edge numbers wise,” the punter said. “The look was not there that we normally have in practice where it’s a go. There must have been some miscommunication between the snapper and Colt (Anderson) and it turned out to be one of the most failed fakes probably of all time.”
The Patriots (5-0) needed six plays to score a touchdown to make it 34-21. The Colts (3-3) were unable to overcome the deficit.
“It was a communication breakdown,” Pagano repeated. “If they lined up and gave us a certain alignment and we didn’t have too many men on the field and everything was basically covered, then we were just going to take a delay in that situation, but again, it’s on me.
“It was a communication breakdown. It’s not on those players.”
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