INDIANAPOLIS — In what will likely to be talked about on sports talk shows for as long as Chuck Pagano is the coach in Indianapolis, an ill-advised fake punt attempt provided a crushing blow to the Colts on Sunday night.
The bizarre play came with 1:14 left in the third quarter and Colts trailing, 27-21. On fourth and 3 from their 35, the Colts tried a trick play out of a formation that had safety Colt Anderson taking the snap from wide receiver Griff Whalen with the rest of the punt team flanked out the right side of field. Not only was it an illegal formation, the Patriots weren’t fooled and Anderson was tackled for a 1-yard loss.
Six plays later, New England’s Tom Brady connected with LeGarrette Blount for an 11-yard touchdown to boost the lead to 34-21 en route to New England’s 34-27 victory.
“I take responsibility there,” Pagano said. “The idea was shift to an alignment where you either catch them misaligned, they try to sub more people in. You catch them with 12 men on the field. If you get a certain look, you can make three yards. We shifted over and I didn’t do a good job of coaching it during the week. We weren’t lined up correctly. There was a communication breakdown between [Anderson] and the snapper and that’s all on me. I take full responsibility. I didn’t do a good enough job of getting that communicated to the guys. It played a huge factor in the loss, given the field position.”
Pagano said if the play was covered the Colts were supposed to take a delay of game penalty.
“It’s on me. It was a communication breakdown,” Pagano said. “It’s not on those players.”
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck refused to blame the play for the loss.
“It’s obviously not ideal,” Luck said. “At the same time, a couple three-and-outs, that don’t help the cause. There are a lot of things we need to clean up.”
The Colts (3-3) closed the deficit to 34-27 with 1:19 on Luck’s 18-yard TD pass to Whalen. After the PAT was blocked, the Patriots recovered the onside kick. Game over.
“We were going to be aggressive,” Pagano said. “Credit them, they played well and outexecuted us.”
After missing the previous two games with a shoulder injury, Luck completed30 of 50 passes for 312 yards, with three TDs and no interceptions.
“We had some missed opportunities,” Luck said. “It was disappointing the way we played in the meat of the second half.”
Luck said he wasn’t rusty.
“But obviously I wasn’t perfect, there were some throws, I need to hit,” he said.
Luck completed 8 of 9 passes for 62 yards on the first possession, capped by his 5-yard TD pass to Donte Moncrief on fourth and 1.
“That was great execution by Andrew,” Pagano said.
The Colts used 7:44 to go 89 yards in 13 plays on that drive.
“We started fast and put points on the board right away,” Pagano said.
After an interception return for a TD that gave the Colts a 14-10 lead, the Colts gambled with an onside kick. The official ruled the Patriors had controlled the ball before pileup. Pagano challenged and lost, much to the crowd dismay.
“Clearly on the replay that we saw a clean recovery,” Pagano said. “I saw it on the Jumbotron and our people. We came out of the pile with the ball and we thought there was no way that we could lose. That was a huge deal in the game.”
The Colts’ other scoring drive of the first half also was time-consuming as they went 80 yards on 12 plays in 6:54, with T.Y. Hilton catching a 3-yard TD.
“We can’t have a hangover,” Pagano said. “We have to get over this one.”
Watch the play below: