Ramifications of botched play could prove tricky for Colts
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The first item on the Colts’ agenda was a meeting with the punt team.
Then the Colts tried to block out last weekend’s big blunder and move on to the Saints.
With a head coach already in the final year of his contract, a general manager under fire for not doing enough to protect his best asset and a team fighting to play up to its Super Bowl expectations, Sunday night’s unforgettable debacle isn’t going away any time soon.
“The design was to actually maybe get them to burn a timeout that they might need later on, at the end of the game, or catch them with too many men on the field, yada, yada, yada,” coach Chuck Pagano said Monday. “Didn’t work out that way.”
It completely backfired.
When the Colts (3-3) tried to fool the Patriots by sending nine players out of a punt formation and toward the right sideline, they only fooled themselves. Receiver Griff Whalen wound up snapping the ball to safety Colt Anderson, who was immediately tackled for a 1-yard loss on fourth down at his own 35-yard line. Tom Brady took advantage of the short field and led the Patriots to the clinching touchdown.
“I’m not going to say that play changed the game,” Anderson said. “But it definitely had a big impact on the game.”
And now the ramifications will be felt.
The most immediate impact is that the division-leading Colts already have three more losses than the other three AFC division leaders — Cincinnati, Denver and New England — and have now given away the head-to-head tie-breaker chip to the Patriots, their bitter rival. That means instead of hosting the Pats (5-0), in a January rematch as the Colts had hoped, they’ll like be playing on the road — if they make it that far.
Then there’s Pagano’s status.
The man who turned down a contract extension during the offseason was more aggressive Sunday night and it nearly paid dividends twice. Indy turned a fourth-and-1 on the opening series into a touchdown and nearly recovered an onside kick after Mike Adams’ interception return gave Indy a 14-10 lead in the second quarter.
His third major gamble, the fake punt, never had a chance.
Even if the Colts had picked up the first down, it would have been nullified by an illegal formation penalty.
Anderson said the Colts added the fake punt to their playbook last season after seeing the Patriots use it — before the league changed its rules about some strange-looking formations. It didn’t help the mood when New England coach Bill Belichick said afterward: “We expected this to be a gadget game.”
Inside the locker room, players mostly toed the company line with one exception.
“It turned out to be one of the most failed fakes, probably of all-time,” punter Pat McAfee said following the game.
It’s a play that either needs to get fixed, or deleted, in the meetings leading up to Sunday’s game against New Orleans (2-4).
Or it could prove much more costly than just one more mark in the loss column.
“I didn’t do a good enough job of teaching the thing, coaching the thing, getting the coaching points across and how we wanted the thing communicated and I’ve got to do better,” Pagano said. “That’s not on them (Whalen and Anderson). That’s on me.”