Personally, I think they should’ve kicked the field goal. Let me get that out of the way first.
Limping in to halftime after a severe beat-down, knowing you’ll be receiving the second-half kickoff, I say you take the three points, call it a moral victory that ends the shutout and cuts the deficit to a scant three touchdowns, and try to to build on it after the break.
But I will say this: it was a designed play. I’ve seen it work in practice. And it was not nearly as stupid as the TV announcers would have you believe.
If you watch the video above, you’ll hear the announcing team go from giddy anticipation of a go-for-broke, nothing-to-lose attempt from a team that’s been successful at them before to disdainfully scorning. “What is the wide world is that?” play-by-play voice Mike Tirico says, adding, “This is embarrassing” before getting back to the play-by-play.
“I’ve never seen that play,” Jon Gruden froths to Ron Jaworski, in his overcaffeinated way. “I hope I never see it again, Jaws!”
“I’m speechless,” Jaworksi responds. “I … I don’t know what to say.”
And, a few seconds later, Gruden says, “They don’t even protect their kickers here!” Which is an amusing line, but it also fundamentally ignores the concept of the play — a concept that the players involved were defending in the postgame locker room, and STILL defending at the facility today.
“When you run it in practice,” Hunter Smith started, and then paused. “Theoretically, you catch them off guard and they go safe mode and leave me alone, and just make sure I have nowhere to go and nowhere to run beyond the line of scrimmage. And, in some cases, it might work that way. But in their case…”
He didn’t finish the sentence, so I’ll finish it for him: in their case, it didn’t.
“They pretty much did the one thing that we didn’t want them to do,” Smith said, “and that was an all-out rush. We thought we could catch them by surprise and get them kinda in a safe mode, and I think we probably had ‘em in that mode except for they called a timeout.”
Todd Yoder concurred. “When they called timeout,” he said, “I think they kinda went over what the play was and how to play it. They decided just to rush the guy, hard up, just to tackle Hunter, and that kinda really limited the time that he had to make his decision. The idea is that, hopefully, maybe they don’t rush as hard because they’re worried about who to cover and it gives him a little more time to throw.”
Yoder’s opinion is particularly relevant here because he was one of the two primary targets on the play, and a crucial element in the deceptiveness.
“The idea is this,” Smith explained. “You move Yoder to center, and in the moment maybe they don’t think the center’s eligible. And that’s what it all turns on.”
“The idea of subbing me in as the snapper is that hopefully they don’t cover me,” Yoder said. “Obviously, that really didn’t pan out the that we wanted it to. I lined up at the end of the line to start, and then we just shift over so I was the end of the line guy. The hope being that them not knowing — or noticing — that I’m the tight end, then I can still go out for the pass.”
No one came out and said it, but I’m assuming there was at least the faint hope that Yoder — tall white guy wearing 87 — might be mistaken for long snapper Ethan Albright, a tall white guy who wears number 67. If, you know, the Giants don’t take that timeout.
(One thing that Albright was impressed with was Yoder’s snapping ability. “I give him an A+, baby,” he said. “He hit Hunter right in the sweet spot. He is multitalented. The old saying about the more you can do…? It definitely applies to Yoder.”
“First snap in a ten-year NFL career,” Yoder said, adding that he had been practicing it for weeks.)
But even after the Giants had time to review, these guys all said that they still wanted to go for it. “Yeah,” Yoder said, “Hell, yeah. If we could’ve gotten a big touchdown going in there at the half, changes the momentum of the game, maybe puts it in our favor. I applaud the fact that even upon them calling a timeout, we felt very comfortable that, hey, we needed to make a play at that point in the game, so let’s run it. Y’know, go for it.”
And the play wasn’t all about Yoder, either. (“We kinda knew he’d be covered,” Smith explained. “They had six people on him.”)
“They called timeout,” Smith said, “and you know what? It was kinda like …” — he shrugged — “we had another option, which was Fred [Davis] on the backside, and, I dunno, maybe if you look at it, maybe he was open and I didn’t have time to get the ball to him.”
Smith said that in the locker room after the game, and if you watch the video above, you can see that he’s absolutely correct. Davis does have position to the outside of the five guys around him, and if the ball had been thrown where it needed to be — just a bit further into the endzone, like a fade route — that’s a touchdown. It’s a throw Smith can make, and has made in practice. There was just one problem with that in a game situation: “I really had no option other than to just get rid of it,” Smith said. “I got piledriven.”
Even after all of that — after the timeout and the blown play and the missed throw and a few hours to review and Hunter Smith getting driven into the turf — there was still support for the call.
“I think there’s a difference between running trick plays and running fakes,” Albright explained. “You have a fake on, you can predict pretty accurately where the defense is gonna be, and you can hit their weak spot. When you’ve got a trick play, you’re doing something out of the ordinary that there’s a million ways the defense could react. You really can’t predict it, but you feel good enough about the weapons that you’ve got that you’re gonna be able to hit something no matter how they cover it.
“And this is definitely in the trick play category. That’s why even after the timeout … I mean, regardless, they’ve never seen it before, you don’t know how they’re gonna react to it. It’s still on; you still feel good about it.”
In fact, the only person I heard come out and say that they actively disagreed with the call was one of the guys who made it: head coach Jim Zorn.
“It was a good enough situation,” Zorn said in his press conference today, “and had they not had a timeout we probably would have fared better. And then they got it together. I wanted to try it again; I didn’t think they saw enough of it because they didn’t see the snap and what was actually going to happen. But they defended it very well. Looking back at it, you know, I would’ve kicked the field goal. But it didn’t happen. “
Tags: Ethan Albright, EthanAlbright, hunter smith, HunterSmith, redskins vs. giants, RedskinsVs.Giants, Todd Yoder, ToddYoder
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