I am so thoroughly baffled by the thing that the Indianapolis Colts just did. There is no part of of my mind that comprehends what it was. I have no clue what they were trying to do, and they did not do whatever they were trying to do well.
Let us gaze upon the horror:
Alright, let's analyze what happened here.
Indianapolis faced fourth-and-3 on their 37-yard line. At the time, they were only down six. At the time, things weren't going so badly for them. They came out in a punt formation, as might be expected. Then the majority of the players in the punt formation -- including the entire offensive line and punter -- ran over to the right side of the field.
That left just two people with the ball: The gunner from the top of the field, wide receiver Griff Whalen, who turned into a de facto center, and the gunner from the bottom of the field, safety Colt Anderson, who turned into a de facto QB. The punt crew remained in a shell of a punt formation.
If the Colts were trying to catch the Pats off guard, it did not work: They lined up perfectly fine. However, the Colts snapped the ball anyway. It did not work.
It turned into an unblocked QB sneak with two players running into three players. Anderson tries his best, but he's quickly gang-tackled. Whalen snaps the ball and doesn't realize he's supposed to block for a good second there.
Piecing together the evidence, it's clear Whalen wasn't supposed to hike the ball when he did. As you can see, the ball kinda hangs up in his butt for a second as Anderson wasn't prepared to take it. Look at how baffled the other nine Colts on the field are:
"Huh? Why is football happening now?"
Cameras caught Pagano wondering saying "WHY'D YOU SNAP THAT" to Whalen:
Whatever this play was supposed to be, I doubt it was supposed to involve nine people completely motionless. It seems more than likely Whalen messed up by snapping the ball, and Anderson's best improvisation was to run forward, which didn't work.
But even if there was a good idea here, it wouldn't have worked, because there was a penalty called on the play. THE ENTIRE RIGHT SIDE of the Colts' offense failed to line up on the line of scrimmage. (You need seven guys on the line.)
The failure ended up being a big deal. The Patriots used the short field provided by the botched play to score a touchdown and take a 13-point lead. They held a two-possession lead for most of the remainder of the game and eventually won by seven. If this was a punt or a successful trick, things could've ended much differently.
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At its core, the reason for the massive failure boils down to one huge error: The ball was snapped too early. That explains the complete ineffectiveness of the play and the confused teammates and coaches.
But nothing else happening makes sense either.
Washington ran a similar-looking formation resulting in an awful play a few years back, where a field goal unit shifted all at once. But at least that ended in a semi-coherent, albeit poorly executed pass. The Colts ended up with nothing resembling football.
I don't know what the purpose of the Colts' formation was. Why did the nine guys at the bottom of the play form an alternate punt formation? Was the idea to toss it over there and punt it? Was this supposed to be a screen to the punter? (Hey, Pat McAfee can do pretty much everything, maybe it would've worked.) Why was the guy snapping the ball a wide receiver with very little experience snapping footballs? (I'm glad this happened, it was very funny.)
I don't know why nobody knew what to do once the ball was snapped. Not even the snapper really seemed to know what to do. How is the best backup plan one guy running into three people?
I don't know why EVERY SINGLE PLAYER failed to line up in a legal formation. How do so many people, both coaches and players, fail to acknowledge one of the most basic rules in football?
I don't know why Indianapolis thought this might fool New England. Yes, it's tricky, but no part of it looks like a successful trick. Was the idea to confuse them into trying to swap out special teams for defense and catch them with 12 men on the field? Why was the play allowed to run at all when this obviously didn't happen? Was the idea to try and draw them offsides? If so, why not just use a hard count, or a trick with less potential for disaster? Why wasn't a timeout called the instant it was clear the Pats weren't fooled?
I don't know why there was no recourse once the play failed to fool New England. Why didn't Indianapolis call a timeout when it became clear this wouldn't work?
Having thought about this play for some time, I can't determine why any of the players on the field did the things they did, or why any of the coaches on the sideline put them in a position to do those things. That is bad.
This was a disgusting bouillabaisse of terrible ideas and terrible execution, and I am a worse human for having witnessed it.
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SB Nation presents: The NFL still doesn't know what a catch is