He lamented how it turned out as the New England Patriots stuffed an ill-conceived run for a loss and then drove six plays later to their final touchdown in a 34-27 road win at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But he didn’t back off from the decision to try it, however ill-conceived it appeared in becoming the leading national sports headline as a befuddled NFL nation collectively questioned the Colts’ competence.
“No, no, not at all,” he said. “Not pleased obviously with the way that we prepared the guys or coached the guys to go out and execute the play. That’s on me. I talked about that with great length, and I’ve got to be better. I don’t regret the play call at all.”
The Colts were looking at a fourth-and-3 play from their 37 while trailing 27-21 late in the third quarter. They lined up to punt, but then nine players shifted their alignment to the far right, leaving reserve wide receiver Griff Whalen at center and reserve safety Colt Anderson at quarterback.
Three Patriots stayed close to Whalen and Anderson and two others were in close proximity. It wasn’t the look the Colts had anticipated when practicing the play and the players who were supposed to be on the line didn’t actually set up on the line of scrimmage and were flagged for an illegal formation.
But it didn’t matter because Whalen snapped the ball and Anderson was slammed down for a 1-yard loss. A stunned partisan crowd reacted with a chorus of boos and Pagano was shown on the sideline asking why the ball was ever snapped. The plan was to take a delay of game penalty if the Patriots didn’t give the Colts the expected look.
After watching the film, did Pagano see anything differently?
“Not really, we just didn’t – again, I take full responsibility for it from a preparation standpoint as far as a lot of things that had to do with that play not working,” he said. “That falls on me and nobody else and I got to be better.”
Anderson, the Colts’ special-teams captain, was so disgusted by what happened he didn’t sleep a wink last night. He blamed himself. Whalen conceded the play was “strange.” Punter Pat McAfee said after the game, “it turned out to be one of the most failed fakes probably of all time.”
That’s how fans and media reacted. Many said it was the craziest thing they had ever seen.
The Colts (3-3) finally had a chance against the Patriots (5-0), who ended up defeating their hosts for a seventh straight time. The previous four meetings were decided by an average of 29 points, but this had the potential of being different.
Then came the fateful call, one that won’t soon be forgotten and could jeopardize Pagano’s future with the team as he is in a contract year.
After weeks of sounding irritated by constant questions pertaining to the health of injured quarterback Andrew Luck, Pagano sounded contrite in discussing the trick play snafu.
He was asked how he deals with such a demoralizing situation.
“You’re sitting there and you’re going to play it over and over and over in your head and ask just let me fall asleep for a couple hours please … but everybody goes through that,” he said. “So get a couple hours and life goes on. You got to get up and you got to move on.
“Just like I told the players. You’re going to face adversity. You’re going to get knocked down, but you got to get up. You got to dust yourself off and you got to move on. We cannot have a hangover from this deal. We put it behind us this afternoon after we watched this tape and we can’t have a hangover because we’ve got another really good football team coming in here and we have to prepare and get ready to play on Sunday. We can’t dwell on anything, win or lose.”
That’s what Pagano said to Whalen and Anderson specifically.
“Just the same way that I talked in here, I talked with them,” the coach said. “I didn’t do a good enough job of teaching the thing, coaching the thing, getting the coaching points across and how we wanted the thing communicated and I got to do better. That’s not on them. That’s on me.”
The Colts host the New Orleans Saints (2-4) on Sunday.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.