Pagano has to ask himself some hard questions
Oct. 20, 2015
"Why'd you snap that?" Chuck Pagano demanded when wide receiver Griff Whalen plodded to the sideline following one of the wackiest botched gadget plays in NFL history.
"Why'd we try that?" is what the Indianapolis coach should be asking himself and special teams coordinator Tom McMahon on Monday.
What Pagano said was that he didn't regret trying the bungled trick play.
"No. No. Not at all. Not pleased obviously with the way I prepared the guys or coached the guys to go out and execute the play," Pagano said. "I've talked about that at great length. I've got to be better. But I don't regret the play at all."
The Colts (3-3) were giving the Patriots (5-0) a good game when they handed Tom Brady and Bill Belichick the victory Sunday night with an ill-conceived fake punt attempt on fourth-and-3 from their own 37.
Trailing New England 27-21 late in the third quarter, the Colts lined up in punt formation, then rolled nine players to the far right side of the field, leaving only Whalen to kneel over the ball like a center and safety Colt Anderson behind him scanning the field.
If the Patriots panicked and sent their defense back onto the field, Anderson was supposed to call for the snap and the 12-men-on-the-field flag would give the Colts a first down.
Or, if only one defender lined up over the ball, he could have taken the snap and run for the first down.
The Patriots weren't fooled and lined up several defenders over the football when Whalen didn't snap it right away — the play clock was at 10 seconds when the Colts first shifted but 9 seconds ticked away, giving the Patriots plenty of time to shift over and cover the ball.
So, the Colts either should have called a timeout, taken the delay of game penalty or shifted back into punt formation.
Instead, it was Whalen who panicked and snapped the ball to Anderson's dismay with a second left on the play clock as he was swarmed by a pack of Patriots.
The yellow flags indeed flew.
Indy was whistled for illegal formation because several Colts blockers were too far off the line of scrimmage.
Belichick declined the penalty and the Patriots had a short field to work with much to the puzzlement of everyone watching the much-anticipated and surprisingly close game.
Soon, Brady was hitting LeGarrette Blount for the decisive TD in New England's 34-27 win.
"That's on me," said Pagano, who outsmarted himself while trying to match wits with Belichick.
"We expected this to be a gadget game," said Belichick, who added, "it was a heads-up play by our punt return unit."
And hands-down the worst play call in the league in a very long time.
How's this for rubbing it in? The University of Maine, which successfully used a similar gadget play on a 2-point conversion to beat James Madison 25-24 in overtime in 2011, posted a clip of the play on its official Twitter account with the message "Hey @Colts, this is how it's done."
BROWNS' BLUNDER: Cleveland coach Mike Pettine figured it was a good bet when he went for two after Karlos Dansby's pick-6 gave the Browns a 20-16 lead over the Broncos midway through the fourth quarter Sunday.
Denver's offense hadn't scored in 25 drives.
"You are up four. You are looking at how many possessions are left in the game. They had not scored a touchdown to that point. It was essentially a field goal game," Pettine said. "If you only go up five, two field goals beat you. Also if you go up six and then you kick a field goal, you are now up nine, which makes it a two-score game on their part.
"We discussed it. It was at that fringe time on our notes, whether to do it. Obviously, knowing the end of the movie, now you would have liked to kick it. We felt good about the decision to go for two, but unfortunately, we didn't convert."
Josh McCown's pass to Travis Benjamin fell incomplete, leaving Cleveland ahead 20-16.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Peyton Manning ended Denver's drought with a 75-yard touchdown strike to Emmanuel Sanders, the longest catch of the Pro Bowl receiver's career putting the Broncos up 23-20.
So, Travis Coons' 26-yard field goal with 90 seconds left in regulation was for the tie and not the win, and the Browns lost in overtime.
"In hindsight, obviously, you are saying, 'Boy, we wish we wouldn't just had that extra point," Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas said. "But it's a 50-50 decision."
One that 100 percent came back to bite the Browns.
LIONS' LIFE: The Detroit Lions can't cross the goal line without drama it seems.
Golden Tate caught a short pass over the middle from Matthew Stafford as he crossed the goal line before Chicago DB Kyle Fuller reached in and pried the ball loose. The play was initially ruled an interception, but it was changed to a TD after a replay review showed Tate had both feet down before the ball came out.
Detroit was on the other end of a bad break earlier this month when Calvin Johnson fumbled into the end zone toward the end of a game at Seattle. Officials ruled that play a touchback instead of flagging the Seahawks for illegally batting the ball out of the end zone.
MISSED SAFETY: What is it about officiating crews and missed calls in the end zone this season?
On third-and-12 from the Kansas City 2, Chiefs left guard Ben Grubbs was called for holding Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd — and a holding call in the end zone is an automatic safety. But referee Jerome Boger announced the infraction took place "in the field of play," despite replays that revealed Grubbs halfway into the end zone when Alex Smith's throw was released.
DOLPHINS DIVIDEND: Interim head coach Dan Campbell got a Gatorade bath and a game ball after Miami stopped the three-game skid that cost Joe Philbin his job. He won his first challenge on his way to triumphing in his debut in a 38-10 rout of Tennessee. His red flag changed a Marcus Mariota incompletion to a Dolphins fumble recovery.
AP Pro Football Writers Teresa M. Walker and Dave Campbell and AP Sports Writers Noah Trister and Michael Marot contributed.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL