AP Pro Football Writer
“Why’d you snap that?” Chuck Pagano demanded when wide receiver Griff Whalen plodded to the sideline following one of the wackiest botched gadget plays in NFL history.
“Why’d we try that?” is what the Indianapolis coach should be asking himself and special teams coordinator Tom McMahon on Monday.
What Pagano said was that he didn’t regret trying the bungled trick play.
“No. No. Not at all. Not pleased obviously with the way I prepared the guys or coached the guys to go out and execute the play,” Pagano said. “I’ve talked about that at great length. I’ve got to be better. But I don’t regret the play at all.”
The Colts (3-3) were giving the Patriots (6-0) a good game when they handed Tom Brady and Bill Belichick the victory Sunday night with an ill-conceived fake punt attempt on fourth-and-3 from their own 37.
Trailing New England 27-21 late in the third quarter, the Colts lined up in punt formation, then rolled nine players to the far right side of the field, leaving only Whalen to kneel over the ball like a center and safety Colt Anderson behind him scanning the field.
If the Patriots panicked and sent their defense back onto the field, Anderson was supposed to call for the snap and the 12-men-on-the-field flag would give the Colts a first down.
Or, if only one defender lined up over the ball, he could have taken the snap and run for the first down.
The Patriots weren’t fooled and lined up several defenders over the football when Whalen didn’t snap it right away — the play clock was at 10 seconds when the Colts first shifted but 9 seconds ticked away, giving the Patriots plenty of time to shift over and cover the ball.
So, the Colts either should have called a timeout, taken the delay of game penalty or shifted back into punt formation.
Instead, it was Whalen who panicked and snapped the ball to Anderson’s dismay with a second left on the play clock as he was swarmed by a pack of Patriots.
The yellow flags indeed flew.
Indy was whistled for illegal formation because several Colts blockers were too far off the line of scrimmage.
Belichick declined the penalty and the Patriots had a short field to work with much to the puzzlement of everyone watching the much-anticipated and surprisingly close game.
Soon, Brady was hitting LeGarrette Blount for the decisive TD in New England’s 34-27 win.
“That’s on me,” said Pagano, who outsmarted himself while trying to match wits with Belichick.
“We expected this to be a gadget game,” said Belichick, who added, “it was a heads-up play by our punt return unit.”
And hands-down the worst play call in the league in a very long time.
How’s this for rubbing it in? The University of Maine, which successfully used a similar gadget play on a 2-point conversion to beat James Madison 25-24 in overtime in 2011, posted a clip of the play on its official Twitter account with the message “Hey @Colts, this is how it’s done.”