The Indianapolis Colts attempted one of the worst botched trick plays one may ever see in a football game. With 1:14 left in the third quarter and facing fourth-and-3 from their own 37-yard line, the Colts lined up in their punt formation, then shifted all but the snapper and the "quarterback" -- wide receiver Griff Whalen and safety Colt Anderson, respectively -- to the right. The Patriots were not fooled by the ruse, and easily tackled Anderson after he took the snap behind a one-man offensive line.
Clearly, things didn't go as expected. Head coach Chuck Pagano was seen mouthing "Why'd you snap that?" as Anderson and Whalen walked back to the sideline. But though he seemingly put the blame on the players during the game, he took full responsibility afterwards.
The idea, Pagano said, was to force the Patriots to overcorrect to the Colts' shift and commit a penalty in the process. In practice, the Patriots did not do what the Colts expected, and the Colts panicked. Via NFL.com:
"The whole idea there was on fourth-and-3 or less, we shift to an alignment to where we could catch them misaligned," Pagano said. "They tried to sub some people in. Catch them with more men on the field -- 12 men on the field. And if you get a certain look, you have three (or) two yards to make a play.
"We shifted over and I didn't do a good enough job coaching it during the week. Alignment wise, we weren't lined up correctly and we had a communication breakdown between the quarterback and snapper. That's on me."
Pagano added that the players were supposed to take a delay of game penalty if they didn't get the reaction they were hoping for from the Patriots.
The Patriots were expecting all sorts of special teams trickery from the Colts, who also attempted and nearly recovered a surprise onside kick early in the second quarter. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had his players prepared:
"We expected this to be a gadget game in the kicking game -- the onside kick, some kind of fake, fake punt, fake field goal," Patriots coach Bill Belichick added. "We didn't know what the play was going to be, obviously, but they went on the swinging gate type play and we went over to the overshift and made sure we covered the inside part and we reacted well to it. So it was a heads up play by our punt return unit."
It's clear that a lot of thought went into the play. In another universe, it might have actually worked. In this instance, however, the Colts tried to run a play they hadn't prepared well enough against a Patriots team that was already keeping a hawkish eye out for any skulduggery.
* * *
SB Nation presents: The NFL still doesn't know what a catch is