Glory and hallelujah, we may finally have gotten to the bottom of the mystifying fake punt that the Indianapolis Colts tried to pull off against the New England Patriots on Sunday night, and we have punter Pat McAfee to thank, from his appearance on the Bob and Tom radio show. As it turns out, Griff Whalen was not originally supposed to be the center in the play — that was safety Clayton Geathers, who went down with an injury in the second quarter.
But first, McAfee explains why in heck all those Colts players were on the sideline (as transcribed by Colts.com):
“The point of the play is a deception play. So, you’re trying to manipulate the (receiving team) into thinking they have to sub their defense back on,” said McAfee. “We are sprinting to the sideline in hopes to make the other team think we are subbing our offense back onto the field. So, when they think the offense is coming back on the field, your hope is that they think their defense has to come back on the field.”
And from this screenshot, courtesy of Colts.com, we can see the offense bunched as if to take the field:
It’s a pretty convoluted strategy in an attempt to outfox one of the most clever coaches in the game into a too-many-men penalty, but according to McAfee, head coach Chuck Pagano added an audible in the week before the game for the eventuality that the defense doesn’t take the field. The center (Whalen) would just sit on the ball, hoping the Patriots come offsides, and at worst taking a delay of game penalty. But Whalen knew the playbook version, not the new version.
“Griff has no idea we’re trying to draw the guy offsides,” said McAfee, “because in the play it says if we get under center, snap it. So Colt Anderson (the quarterback on the play) is trying to draw a guy offsides to pick up an easy five yards. If not, we just don’t snap it. We take a delay of game.”
McAfee’s version finally explains what everyone meant when they said it was a “miscommunication” after the game, but it doesn’t absolve Pagano in the least. As soon as the personnel for this incredibly risky play based on misdirection wasn’t available, he should have scrapped it. Instead, he goes down in infamy.