With one spectacularly awful trick play late in the third quarter of their 34-27 loss to the Patriots on Sunday, the Colts made a strong case for the worst play in NFL history and provided Redskins fans a reminder of the Jim Zorn era they didn’t know they needed.
Facing fourth-and-three from the Indianapolis 37-yard line, Colts Coach Chuck Pagano sent his punt team on the field. This seemed like a wise decision, considering the Colts only trailed by six points. What happened next was less wise.
After nine Indianapolis players, including the punter, ran to the right side of the field, wide receiver Griff Whalen snapped the ball to safety Colt Anderson, who was immediately swarmed by Patriots defenders for a four-yard loss.
Pagano blamed a “communication breakdown” for the failed trickery, which called to mind the “Swinging Gate” play Zorn’s Redskins attempted in 2009.
I had Redskins season tickets that season, but I was a Bad Fan and decided to watch the “Monday Night Football” game against the Giants on a cold, drizzly December night from my couch. It turned out the trek to FedEx Field would’ve been worth it, just to say I was there for the “Swinging Gate.”
Trailing the Giants 24-0 with two seconds to play in the first half of an eventual 45-12 loss, the Redskins lined up in a strange field goal formation. Seven Redskins players split out wide to the left and Todd Yoder prepared to snap the ball to punter Hunter Smith. Giants Coach Tom Coughlin called timeout.
Amazingly, even with the element of surprise gone, Zorn called for the same formation and play out of the timeout. Kicker Graham Gano went in motion and Yoder snapped the ball to Smith, whose wobbly pass toward the end zone was intercepted by safety Aaron Rouse. (The Redskins had hoped that the Giants would leave Yoder uncovered, not realizing he was eligible to receive a pass.)
“It was good defense,” Zorn said afterward. “It was really good defense. That’s what hurt that play. I contemplated just going back, after [Coughlin] had called timeout … I wish it was no timeouts on the clock on their side. I contemplated just kicking the field goal after that. The play was unique enough to where I didn’t think they saw what we were really trying to do. And then they smelled it out pretty good. We didn’t really have a chance. It didn’t get started.”
So, whose “Swinging Gate” was the bigger disaster? It’s gotta be the Colts’ version.
Zorn ran the play twice, but he was a lame duck coach coaching a meaningless game that had already gotten out of hand. Why not have some fun? The Colts were very much in Sunday’s game. On top of that, even had their trick play worked, it wouldn’t have counted, because Indianapolis didn’t have enough players on the line of scrimmage. Zorn and Danny Smith at least got that right.
Zorn was trending on Twitter after the Colts’ play: