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To call last night's fake punt the worst play in football history is quite honestly underselling it. From design to execution to label this simply 'an unmitigated disaster' is being unfair to things we previously labeled that. This wasn't just incompetence, because that kind of infers that just one part of it was inept. This wasn't a single point of failure. This was a labyrinth of stupidity. A new, idiotic component to this moronic play at each turn.

The improbability of success

Excluding every other component, in concept alone this is a terrible play. The success of the play hinges on the New England Patriots, the most prepared team in modern sports history, being so caught off guard by a change in formation that they put one or less player over center.

Honestly, seriously consider the play's premise: The only reason you should snap the ball is in the incredibly off-chance that the defense forgets to defend the guy with the ball. Which, you know, seems pretty unlikely provided you're not playing against Milford's pop warner team when 'Watch Me' is on the PA.

This is where Pagano exposes himself as a guy whose not suited to be a head coach. When a play has such a low probability of success, it's unfathomable that he wouldn't spend a countless amount of time telling the player under center (Jeff Whalen) to not snap the ball unless it's absolutely, one thousand percent there.

Whalen snaps the ball! Whalen snaps the ball! Whalen snaps the ball!

The image at top of the page, and the countless people who are talking about the play today, will tell you that it was impossibly dumb for the center on this play - wide receiver & return man, Griff Whalen - to snap the ball because it'd be nearly impossible for him to block the two defenders lined up to either side of him well enough for the player under center - free safety Colt Anderson - to gain four and a half yards. 

Thing is, that's actually only just partially true. 


There weren't just two players between Anderson and a first down, it was actually more like four or five; Boldin & Bostic on the line, Logan Ryan to Boldin's right, Matthew Slater as a creeping safety, and (I believe) Nate Ebner a few yards to Bostic's left to prevent a sweep. 

So, for those keeping track at home - here's what would've needed to happen in order for the Colts to pickup a first down.
  1. Griff Whalen, a 198 pound vegan, would need to snap the ball and deliver the single greatest block of all time - simultaneous knocking Jon Bostic (245 lbs) and Brandon Bolden (220 lbs) to the ground.
  2. After Griff lays down the block of the cench, Colt Anderson, on his first carry of his professional career, would need to either juke out, or plow through both Logan Ryan as well as Matthew Slater quickly enough so Nate Ebner (or any other nearby Patriot) could not interfere. 
Obviously, the cards are pret-ty, pret-ty stacked against them. Clearly, they can't pick up that first down. At least not without THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE. 

Whalen straight cuts the breaks off this thing, and goes Wild Card on it. Snapping the ball but opts against trying to block anyone. Presumably, deducing that Bostic, Boldin, Slater and Ryan would be so confused by the lack of blocking that they'd just let Anderson past them.

Of course, what happens is that Boldin runs in to make the uncontested tackle because, well, duh.

The Design

Unfortunately the outcome of the play hides the most hilarious parts of the play, the actual design itself. Take a look at a screenshot of the play from afar


Two things stick out immediately
  1. As the referee of the game rightfully pointed out, and this is somehow an actual quote "The whole right side of the line was not on the line of scrimmage." 
  2. For some reason,  the nine players on the right are in a punt formation.
And you know what, let's cut to the chase here - WHY ARE THE COLTS PLAYERS ON THE RIGHT IN A PUNT FORMATION?!?! What is the intended purpose?!!? Why not line the players up and present at least the threat of a bubble screen, or double pass, or... literally anything besides a punt?

Honestly, I've spent the morning pondering this and this is honestly the best I can come up with -

The Colts are so convinced that the Patriots bug locker rooms that they left a faux play call sheet out where they inferred that they had learned teleportation. And with that power they were going to try a new punt formation where they teleported the ball from the center of the field to the right side of the field.

The Patriots, concerned with the Colts ability to teleport a football - and not curious to why they're using this power on a new punt formation - over defend the right side and leave the middle of the field open for a run.

Which of course is ridiculous, but also, what makes more sense? 

Conclusion



MattDotRich 10/19/2015 01:42:00 PM Edit
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