Chuck Pagano and the Indianapolis Colts attempted perhaps the worst trick play in NFL history on Sunday night against the Patriots.
Trailing New England 27-21 in the fourth quarter and facing fourth-and-3 from their own 37-yard line, Pagano sent out the punt team. But then nine players, including punter Pat McAfee, set up wide to the right. Off to the left, receiver Griff Whalen stood over the ball as the de facto center, with only safety Colt Anderson behind him. Whalen then snapped the ball to Anderson, who was quickly swarmed by most of the Patriot defense.
After the game, Pagano said he was hoping to get a good matchup to make a play or force the Patriots to substitute players and get a too-many-men penalty or some such explanation for the horror that occurred.
What we do know is that what happened, happened, and that Pagano took the blame. What we can assume is that he has conceived of other trick plays that we have not yet been fortunate enough to see.
Baseball formation has the Colts line up like they're on a baseball field—using only nine players instead of 11 for extra believability!—with the center over the ball. The idea is that the other team will be like: "Oh, crap! We're playing baseball, not football!" And then run off the field to grab their mitts and bats. And that's where you get them. When they're off the field looking for their baseball equipment, you snap the ball and run down the field and score a football home run.
Football formation puts 10 players off to the right in a vaguely football shape. That could cause the defense to say: "Look over there! It's a huge football! Let's tackle it!" The trap is set. While the defense is going after the fake football, the one player you split wide left with the real football is sauntering in for a score. The fools!
Let's be honest: sometimes the Colts players struggle with properly running trick plays. But not out of the Arrow formation! The arrow points in the exact direction the play is to go. It's also a very flexible play. The arrow can point a full 360 degrees around the field for extreme trickery!
Smiley face formation
What could go wrong in the Smiley Face formation? It's so smiley! Who even has the ball on this play? Who knows! Let's just have some fun out there, O.K.? This is a game, right? Why do we have to criticize coaches just because their plays fail miserably sometimes? Sometimes Chuck Pagano just needs to be happy and smile.
Quote of the week
“Please continue to give us your responses of negativity. Keep fueling us with hate. We’ll take that and turn it into positive stuff.” — Josh Norman, CB, Panthers
That’s Norman ripping into all the Panthers haters after Carolina went to 5-0 this week with a win over the Seahawks. It must be frustrating for him to constantly be told how terrible he is despite being one of the best players on an undefeated team. If he wants to a break from all that negativity, he should totally check out Josh Norman’s Twitter feed, which is about 90% filled with Josh Norman retweeting people telling him how awesome he is.
Stat of the week
In San Diego’s 27-20 loss to Green Bay on Sunday, Philip Rivers became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 500 yards and zero interceptions in a game and lose. That performance is Rivers’s career in a nutshell: nice-looking stats but nothing to show for it. There will be much debate about his Hall of Fame credentials one day. But I say he should be in. Is it because he is one of the top quarterbacks of his generation? No. It’s because we want to see this face forever cast in bronze.
This week’s horrible fantasy team that crushed your team
Brian Hoyer, QB, Texans — 24-for-36, 293 yards, 3 TD
James Starks, RB, Packers — 117 yards, 2 TD
Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins — 155 total yards, TD
Lance Moore, WR, Lions — 5 receptions, 106 yards, TD
Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals — 9 catches, 95 yards, TD
Benjamin Watson, TE, Saints — 10 catches, 127 yards, TD
Press conference questions someone should have asked
Bruce Arians: “How much do you now regret losing your job in Pittsburgh, considering you missed out on working with a talent like Landry Jones?”
Ken Whisenhunt: “You just got blown out by a team that was so bad they fired their head coach. I don’t have a question really, I guess I just wondered if you realized that and if you rent or own.”
John Harbaugh: “Did playing the 49ers remind you of winning the Super Bowl and make you wonder how you transformed your team into one of the worst in football in less than three years?”
Reader Twitter question of the week
With questions like these, it’s all about sample size. So what are our sample sizes? With Peyton Manning, we know that he has been pretty awful for an entire calendar year now. A year is a long time. And with Landry Jones, we know that he has a 149.3 quarterback rating for his entire NFL career. Like, the whole thing. Someone's entire career is the biggest sample you can get. In conclusion, Landry Jones is a significantly better quarterback than Peyton Manning is now or ever was.
A random list of random things
1. Bill Belichick said that he expected the Colts to try some trick plays in the game. “A gadget game in the kicking game—onside kick, some kind of fake. It’s something they’ve done in the past. We didn’t know what the play was going to be, obviously.” Yeah, of course, “obviously,” coach! Why would you feel the need to even add that word? How would you, Bill Belichick, know the specific play an opponent would run? It’s an absurd notion, and I don’t know why you would even allude to such a thing.
2. You almost have to feel bad for Chuck Pagano. He was going against Belichick, a guy who knows the rule book so well, the Patriots pull off formations other teams think are illegal, but aren’t—and then Pagano tries his trick play and not only is it a disaster, but also the formation was illegal. He’s like a kid who spent a year on his science fair project in hopes of beating the smartest kid in the class, only to blow himself up with his baking soda volcano and then get detention for leaving his body parts all over the gym.
3. Pagano said the botched play was the result of a “communication breakdown.” It went like this: Pagano said, “Hey, I have a great idea for a play.” And then someone on his staff accidentally said: “O.K., let’s do it,” instead of what they mean to say: “Good god, man. That’s insane. Did Jim Irsay think that up?” Simple communication error.
4. Good try, 12s. Good try.
But you people should know that sleep is overrated for football players. Do you not following the inspirational, no-sleep-advocating tweets of your beloved quarterback or what?
All you did is cause the Panthers to become great.
5. Tough week for the brothers Harbaugh. First Jim Harbaugh lost on a run-off muffed punt and then John saw his team’s season spiral deeper down the toilet with a loss to the 49ers. But at least John doesn’t have to worry about his team’s punt game. Joe Flacco is an elite punter.
6. Golden Tate had a confusing touchdown yesterday that no seems to be able to explain. More people need to read the NFL Hangover. Last week’s edition featured a flowchart that explained how touchdowns are decided. One thing everyone knows, if Tate been teammate Calvin Johnson, his TD wouldn’t have counted.
7. Of all quarterbacks who have thrown 10 or more passes this year, the leaders in passer rating are Landry Jones, then Tom Brady, then Andy Dalton. I don’t have a joke. I just wanted to write that sentence.
8. How about that play this week, huh? The guy was all running and then the other guys were running, too, and then there was diving and then all the fans went: “Woooooo!” Crazy.
By the way, I should mention there’s a crackdown by leagues on posting Vines and GIFs of game footage, so we may just have to rely on my writing going forward for play descriptions. But that shouldn’t be a problem! People who write about football are considered the bards of our time, so let my descriptive and flowery language wash over you.
9. Man, Peyton Manning sucks now, huh? It’s a tough spot that Peyton diehards are in. If you point out his awful stats—seven touchdown passes, 10 interceptions, a 72.5 quarterback rating—they say: “He’s got the only stat that matters ... UNDEFEATED.” But then every year before this one they said that his stats made him great and it wasn’t his fault that he wasn’t winning championships. It can’t be both. Peyton Manning defenders are having a bad season. (NFL defenders facing him excluded.)
10. The Broncos are currently in the Denial phase of the Kubler-Ross Model.
Next comes Anger. “Why must a talented team with a real title shot have be stuck playing with an old quarterback just because no one has the guts to bench him?!”
Then Bargaining: “I mean, maybe if we just run the ball on every snap and play great defense ... that’s playoff football anyway, right? We’re going to do this!”
Then Depression: “We’re going to get eliminated in our first playoff game again, I know it. We’re high-altitude Bengals.”
And Acceptance: “We can’t bench Peyton Manning. Let’s just let him have one last playoff elimination and then move on after the season.”
We’re sorry for your loss, Broncos. He was a good quarterback for a very long time.