After lining up in punt formation, the Colts rolled nine players — including their entire offensive line — to the far right side of the field, leaving wideout Griff Whalen to kneel over the ball like a center, with safety Colt Anderson stationed behind him for the snap.
The formation caused chaos among Patriots defenders, but New England wisely kept five men hovering around Whalen, who appeared to surprise Anderson by snapping the ball. The duo was smothered by enemy Patriots, drawing a wave of boos from the stunned home crowd.
Whalen said after the game that when the Patriots “adjusted to our motion, we knew we didn’t have the look.”
When asked if there was a way to kill the play, he added, “No, we were just going to wait. It was just a miscommunication, guys. I mean that’s all it was. It was a miscommunication. I’ve got to do a better job of making sure that we do the right thing.”
The ghastly play wasn’t even conceived correctly, with Indy drawing a flag for an illegal formation after a rash of blockers were deemed to be too far off the line of scrimmage.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano tried to explain the play after the game.
“The whole idea there was on fourth-and-3 or less, we shift to an alignment to where we could catch them misaligned,” Pagano said. “They tried to sub some people in. Catch them with more men on the field — 12 men on the field. And if you get a certain look, you have three (or) two yards to make a play.
“We shifted over and I didn’t do a good enough job coaching it during the week. Alignment wise, we weren’t lined up correctly and we had a communication breakdown between the quarterback and snapper. That’s on me.”
“We expected this to be a gadget game in the kicking game — the onside kick, some kind of fake, fake punt, fake field goal,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick added. “We didn’t know what the play was going to be, obviously, but they went on the swinging gate type play and we went over to the overshift and made sure we covered the inside part and we reacted well to it. So it was a heads up play by our punt return unit.”
While New England extended their lead to 34-21, Pagano appeared to ask Whalen, “Why’d you snap that?”