THIS STORY ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN OCTOBER 2015
INDIANAPOLIS -- Despite what has been dubbed the "biggest failed punt in NFL history" by analysts and fans alike, the Indianapolis Colts have been mum on the true explanation of the botched fake that swung momentum in the New England Patriots favor for good during the Colts' 34-27 loss on Sunday night.
The punt came with just over one minute left in the third quarter, with the Patriots up 6.
Colts punter Pat McAfee shed more clarity on the situation Tuesday morning on the Bob and Tom radio show.
McAfee said wide receiver Griff Whalen was never supposed to be the center on the play.
“The gunner who became the center all week was Clayton Geathers. Clayton Geathers gets injured in the second quarter,” said McAfee. “Insert Griff Whalen who had never done it before. So Griff Whalen is now the new center in a play he’s never practiced before.”
That'll do it.
McAfee did say Whalen knew the intent of the play, but didn't know a second option that was added in practice the prior week.
Of that intent, McAfee said the point of the "fake" was trying to manipulate the receiving team into subbing their defense back on, hoping to cause a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty and pick up an easy five yards, which would have led to a first down.
Take a look back at the play and you'll see the offense lined up and ready on the edge of the sideline, as if they are going back on the field.
The punting team sprints toward the sideline trying to create that illusion, but unfortunately for the Colts, the Pats never tried to sub anybody from their defense, instead shuffling the special teams players they had on to the new assignments.
And that second option that Whalen missed is what was added in case the receiving team doesn't substitute, with the adjusted intent to draw them offsides.
McAfee explains: “Last week, Griff is at the other end catching my punts. We added something to try and draw them offsides if they don’t do their substitution. Griff never got the heads up 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’s added, he can’t know.”
That was the 12-times-aforementioned "miscommunication" that head coach Chuck Pagano and took full responsibility for and other Colts echoed.
“Griff has no idea we’re trying to draw the guy offsides,” said McAfee, “In the play it says if we get under center, snap it. So (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.”
We all know what happened next: The Patriots take over on downs and score an easy TD on a short field to put them ahead for good.
McAfee said the feeling on the team was reminiscent of a darker time.
“Yesterday was like the time’s when we were 2-14,” said McAfee, “We shot ourselves in the foot so hard.”