As Sunday night’s game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts approached, nearly all the talk was focused on Tom Brady and whether he would extract "Deflategate" revenge on the Colts, the team that blew the whistle on deflated footballs after last season’s AFC Championship Game.
But by the time the clock at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis read all zeros except for the score — Patriots 34, Colts 27 — all anyone could talk about was the bizarre trick play the hosts tried to pull off.
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Sure, Indy had its hands full against the defending Super Bowl champions … hell, every other team in the NFL would have trouble against unbeaten New England (now 5-0).
If you’re going to beat the Patriots, you have to be on your game. And that means if you’re going to try to outfox Bill Belichick, you can’t make mistakes.
For those of you scratching your head, this was a fourth-down play and the Colts looked as if they were lining up for some kind of fake punt. They had eight players on the right side of the field with punter Pat McAfee lined up several yards behind them. Wide receiver Griff Whalen was the center with safety Colt Anderson lined up behind him as the de facto "quarterback."
The Colts were facing fourth-and-3 at their own 37, down 27-21 late in the third quarter. After the Patriots scored a touchdown to open the second half, Indianapolis forced New England to punt on consecutive drives and seemed to finally slow down Brady & Co. when this six-play drive stalled.
What’s worse than that was the result:
After snuffing out the play, the Patriots took the ball over on downs on the Colts’ 35, took all of six plays to score a touchdown, and stretched their lead to 34-21. The Colts would get no closer until an all-too-late touchdown with 79 seconds to play.
So … maybe the Colts were trying to force the Patriots into burning a timeout?
Either way, after standing around for a few seconds, Whalen snapped the ball and Anderson was swarmed by the several defenders who were standing right there with nobody blocking them.
After the game, Belichick said he actually wasn’t all that surprised be the play.
"We expected this to be a gadget game," Belichick told the media after the game. "Their punter ran a sweep against Tennessee a couple weeks ago, so that’s something they’ve done in the past."
Sounds about right, since the Pats owned the play from before the snap.
As for some players?
"It turned out to be one of the worst failed fakes probably of all time," Indianapolis punter Pat McAfee said.
"I saw the formation, and I wasn’t sure what was going on," Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones said. "It was great awareness by our team."
And the man who will ultimately take the heat for the call?
"The whole idea there was on fourth-and-3 or less, shift our alignment to where you either catch them misaligned, they try to sub some people in, catch them with 12 men on the field and if you get a certain look, you can make a play," Colts coach Chuck Pagano told the media after the game. "Alignment-wise we weren’t lined up correctly, and then a communication problem on the snap. I take responsibility for that."
Now … let’s turn it over to social media:
I don't often use the word "stupid". It's mean-spirited. Name-calling isn't analysis. It felt appropriate there.