Punter Pat McAfee did his best to exonerate Indianapolis Colts teammates Griff Whalen and Colt Anderson, but an explanation for what went wrong on Sunday night’s trick play will undoubtedly add to the criticism of head coach Chuck Pagano.
The play backfired because Whalen was a substitute for the impromptu snapper Clayton Geathers, who had been injured in the second quarter, and the reserve wide receiver wasn’t part of the practice plan when the Colts added a new wrinkle to try to draw the New England Patriots offside, McAfee said Tuesday in his usual weekly radio appearance on The Bob & Tom Show.
“So Griff Whalen is now the new center for a play he’s never practiced before,” McAfee said. “Last week, when Griff wasn’t around, Griff is at the other end catching my punts … we added something to try to draw them offsides if they don’t do their substitution there.
“Griff never got the heads up that this was happening because it’s not in the playbook. Stanford guy, reads the playbook, knows everything he has to do, but if he’s not there for an audible that is added, he can’t know.”
Whalen snapped the ball to a surprised Anderson, who was immediately tackled for a 1-yard loss on the fourth-and-3 play at the Colts’ 37-yard line. The Patriots, ahead 27-21 in the third quarter at the time, took possession and drove to a touchdown in the 34-27 victory.
“Griff has no idea we’re going to try to draw the guys offsides because in the playbook, it says if we get under center, snap it,” McAfee said. “So Colt Anderson is trying to draw a guy offsides to pick up an easy five yards (for a first down). If not, we just don’t snap it, take the delay of game (penalty).
“Griff goes, ‘His hands aren’t supposed to be on my ass. If I feel ‘em right now, I’m supposed to snap it.’ So this is a 100 percent miscommunication.”
The Colts were also flagged for illegal formation because when the other nine players shifted toward the right side, McAfee said those on the line took their cue for where to stand from one player who incorrectly positioned himself behind the line of scrimmage.
“If that one guy lines up in the wrong spot,” McAfee said, “everybody lines up in the wrong spot.”
When the ball was snapped, the punter admitted thinking, “What?” When he saw a yellow penalty flag, he thought the Colts had succeeded in drawing the Patriots offside.
Instead, the Patriots declined the illegal formation penalty and took possession. McAfee was shown on camera saying, “What the (expletive) just happened?” Another camera caught Pagano asking, “Why did you snap the ball?”
The play was originally designed is to try to entice the Patriots to think the Colts were bringing their offense back on the field. If the Patriots thought this and tried to substitute in their defensive players, the Colts would snap the ball and draw a penalty for the opponent having too many men on the field.
That obviously didn’t happen. The rest is dubious distinction from a play the punter called a “complete cluster.”
McAfee acknowledged hearing people calling for the heads of Whalen, Anderson and Pagano. He was obviously trying to defend them.
Pagano has repeatedly accepted blame for the snafu, but McAfee’s explanation will make many wonder even more why the coach didn’t call a timeout to prevent the mistake. That Whalen was completely unaware of the audible means the Colts were even more disorganized than just failing to line up properly.
“It’s a game,” McAfee said. “We tried to trick ‘em. It didn’t work out.
“Some very important news didn’t get down to a person who was involved in the play. That completely sucks and it was completely embarrassing, but it legitimately was a miscommunication and a misalignment by one person.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.