Even if they didn’t know the Colts were going to do that, the Patriots knew the Colts were going to try something.
Because let’s be honest, like the Spanish Inquisition, no one saw a fake punt to no one/swinging gate to nowhere coming.
“You know, you’re not surprised with anything, how they play,” Patriots receiver Julian Edelman said, via Phil Perry of CSNNE.com. “They tried the onside kick. They did that. You know. Colts. . . .
“I’m glad they did it. We got the ball back with great field position. We were alert. Our guys went to where we had to go. And, um, shame on them, trying that again.”
Edelman was referring to the fourth-and-dumb fake punt attempt which confused only the Colts themselves, with the coach seeming as shocked as anyone (having drawn up the play). So instead of trailing by six, they were down 13 when Tom Brady took advantage of the short field and threw an immediate dagger touchdown.
Whether Griff Whalen was supposed to just hard-count to make the Patriots try to jump, or whether in another universe the play was supposed to work, we may never know. Because coach Chuck Pagano’s immediate explanation wasn’t a very good one.
“We prepared for a lot of stuff this week, but that’s not usual,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “It was a good job by the guys on the field, though, being aware.
“I was [surprised]. But sometimes you see plays like that where it’s a different kind of punt formation and guys just don’t know where to line up and then you do see a snap sometimes, and the guy takes off. But our punt return unit was ready for it.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who can go on and on about such small points of the game, was like his players in expecting something.
“That special teams group works really hard,” Belichick said. “We expected this to be a gadget game in the kicking game, the onside kick, some kind of fake kick — fake kick, fake punt, fake field goal. The punter ran a sweep against Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. It’s something they’ve done in the past.
“We didn’t know what the play was going to be obviously, but they went to a swinging-gate type play, went into the over-shift, and we wanted to make sure we covered the inside part. Reacted well to it. That was a good heads-up play by our punt return unit.”
For the Colts, their heads were up something, but the lack of self-awareness to know when to play that card ultimately doomed them.