By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Chuck Pagano was willing to try just about anything to beat the Patriots on Sunday night.
That includes what could go down as one of the worst play calls in NFL history. While that may sound like an exaggeration, it's really not too far off. This could be one of those plays you tell your grandchildren about one day, right after you're done explaining the "Butt Fumble."
Trailing the Patriots 27-21 late in the third quarter, the Colts were facing a 4th and 3 at their own 37. They called one of those trick plays with most of their players lining up on the right side, with just a center and another player to take the snap on the left side of the field. This time it was safety Colt Anderson under center with wide receiver Griff Whalen snapping the ball.
But with everyone else on the other side of the field, there was no one to protect Anderson. Patriots' special teamer Brandon Bolden was there, standing eye-to-eye and begging Anderson to call for the snap.
The play was called to draw New England offside. When it was clear the Patriots weren't thrown off by the formation, the Colts should have called one of their three timeouts. Pagano should have been doing cartwheels onto the field with sparklers in both hands trying to get a referee's attention, but instead he let Anderson snap the ball. Bolden was delivering him to the ground before he knew what hit him and it was a turnover on downs for Indy in the most embarrassing of ways.
As his players made their way to the sideline, Pagano asked them why they snapped the ball. The Patriots took over deep in Indianapolis territory and a few plays later Tom Brady threw his third touchdown pass of the night to put New England on top 34-21.
The head coach took all the blame for the blunder after the game, but also made it clear that the ball should have never been snapped.
"I take responsibility... I didn't do a good enough job of coaching it during the week," said Pagano.
"Alignment-wise, we weren't lined up correctly and then a communication breakdown between the quarterback and the snapper and that's all on me."
Of course, Twitter had a field day with the play.
Pagano already had New England thinking about possible trick plays thanks to an onside kick in the first half. That attempt caught the Patriots sleeping, but New England still came up with the ball. So when the Colts tried to take from their bag of tricks again later in the game, the Patriots were ready.
"We expected this to be a gadget game in the kicking game, the onside kick, some kind of fake — fake punt, fake field goal. The punter ran a sweep against Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. That's something they've done in the past," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "We didn't know what the play was going to be, obviously, but they went on the swing-gate type play. We went over to the overshift and made sure we covered the inside part, reacted well to it. It was a good heads-up play by our punt return unit. Thought we had good coverage from those guys from the opening kickoff."
"We prepared for a lot of stuff this week, but that's not usual," New England safety McCourty said of the fake punt after the game.
The Colts had a chance on Sunday night, but all of that was derailed by one play call. Nothing about the play made much sense, and now the hot seat just gets hotter for Chuck Pagano.
But at least he left us all with a gift that will keep on giving.
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