Griff Whalen was never part of Colts’ fake punt play in practice

Griff Whalen reportedly never practiced the trick play in question that went horribly awry during the Colts' loss to the Patriots.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

By Steve DelVecchio

There were two people who looked incredibly dumb when the Indianapolis Colts tried to fool the New England Patriots with a trick punt formation Sunday night — head coach Chuck Pagano and wide receiver Griff Whalen. But the more we learn about the play, the more we realize Pagano needs to shoulder most of the blame.

During an appearance on WFBQ’s “The Bob and Tom Show” Tuesday morning, Colts punter Pat McAfee revealed that Whalen never got a chance to practice the trick play.

“The gunner who became the center all week was (safety) Clayton Geathers,” McAfee explained, per Steve Andress of Colts.com. “Clayton Geathers gets injured in the second quarter. 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.”

McAfee said Whalen was actually on the opposite end of the field ready to field the punt in practice when the Colts went over the infamous play. While he was familiar with the play because it is part of the playbook, he didn’t know a new wrinkle had been added to it during the week.

“Last week (in practice), 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,” McAfee added. “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.

“Griff has no idea we’re trying to draw the guy offsides, 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.”

Some have placed equal blame on Whalen for snapping the ball with two Patriots defenders standing over him, but he was obviously very confused. If you haven’t seen the video of the play, you can watch it here.

The original intent, according to McAfee, was for the Colts to make the Patriots think they were subbing their punt team out and bringing their offense back onto the field. Ideally, that would make the Patriots scramble to have to sub their defense back in and potentially get caught with too many men on the field.

The problem with that? No team in the NFL is more disciplined and prepared than Bill Belichick’s, and it showed on that play. The Colts probably figured they’d get New England to burn a timeout at worst, but Belichick calmly looked on as his special teams unit reacted and made a play.

When you consider that Whalen had minimal experience with the trick play, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Pagano was desperate to prove he can beat Belichick at the Patriots coach’s own game. Given what we now know, we can’t believe Pagano said what he did on Monday about the embarrassing play.

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