Sunday October 19th, 2014

The St. Louis Rams used a little razzle-dazzle en route to upsetting the defending champs 28-26 in St. Louis.

Over the last two seasons, the Seattle Seahawks have been one of the NFL's best teams against punt returns. In 2013, they allowed a grand total of 82 return yards on 21 attempts and forced 30 fair catches. Coming into their Week 7 game against the Rams, Seattle had allowed just 21 yards on five attempts and caused 11 fair catches, tied for second-best in the league.

In other words, this is not a team you'd expect to get fooled by a decoy punt return play. But that's just what happened in the second quarter of the Seahawks' game against the Rams in St. Louis.

The Seahawks punted with 7:24 left in the first half, already down to their division opponents 14-3. Receiver Tavon Austin appeared to call for a fair catch on the offensive left side of the field, and that sent most of Seattle's return unit that way. What those players did not see, and evidently did not understand, was that Ryan's punt was headed to the other side of the field, into the awaiting arms of receiver Stedman Bailey, who had a relatively easy 90-yard punt return. 

Rule No.1 of punt returning: follow the ball. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll argued with the officiating crew that Austin's motion ended the play, but the refs didn't buy it, giving the Rams an amazing touchdown against a team that rarely allows anything on punts at all.

Thing is, as ace colleague Chris Burke points out, not the first time this has happened in an NFL game. When the Packers and Bears faced on Sept. 25, 2011, Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub set up a play in which return ace Devin Hester would show a fake fair catch, and the other receiver -- this case, Johnny Knox -- had a free pass to the end zone.

The touchdown was called back by a holding penalty, but the fake fair catch wasn't argued. In fact, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers called it "the most incredible play I've ever seen."

"We all went with Hester," Packers gunner Jarrett Bush said. "You have to kind of respect it because Hester is the dynamic returner that he is. Everybody went that way.

"I knew the ball was supposed to go a different way. But I couldn't find it." 

The Seahawks can relate. 

Oh, and the Rams weren't done humiliating Seattle's formerly great special teams. Up 28-26 with 2:55 left in the game, punter Johnny Hekker threw a pass on a fake punt to running back Benny Cunningham. It was close, but the Rams pulled the game out, and the Super Bowl champs are now 3-3, and third in the NFC West.

(H/T: XFinity Sports)

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