It’s not often that an NFL team successfully executes two fake punts in one game, but that’s what the Rams did to the 49ers on Sunday. That’s particularly galling to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh because he says his team spent much of the last week of practice preparing for fake punts.
“It was an alert all week,” Harbaugh said, via CSNBayArea.com. “The Rams are a fake team. They like to run fakes, they run them very well. [I] wish, in hindsight, we’d been in a better position to defend the fake. We didn’t anticipate they’d run a fake at that point.”
The Rams’ first fake punt came late in the first half, with punter Johnny Hekker taking the snap deep in his own end zone and passing to gunner Rodney McLeod for a 21-yard gain. That came when Hekker saw that the 49ers were leaving McLeod uncovered because they were rushing everyone to try to block the punt, and Harbaugh acknowledged that the Rams had a great call ready to counter the 49ers’ attempt to block the punt.
“When we run the rush we run, you understand that they could do exactly what they did and you roll the dice that they won’t do it, as far backed up as they are,” Harbaugh said. “I wouldn’t say we were daring them into it. We felt we were playing the percentages to rush and block the punt. And they executed as well as you can and made a great play.”
The Rams’ second fake punt came late in the fourth quarter, and they used receiver Danny Amendola as a decoy, having him go in motion to draw the 49ers’ attention away from Lance Kendricks, who picked up 18 yards. That set up the touchdown that gave the Rams a 24-21 lead with just over a minute to play. That the Rams were able to set up a go-ahead touchdown on a fake punt, after they had already run another fake punt earlier in the game, suggests that last week’s preparation wasn’t particularly effective.