The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts have underperformed expectations this season and needed the win on Sunday. Locked in a 0-0 game midway through the 1st quarter, the Saints turned to the bane of the Indianapolis season in recent weeks – special teams. For the second week in a row, the Colts were undone by poor scheming in the third phase of the game as the Saints fake field goal was a success.
Coming off a win against the division-leading Atlanta Falcons in Week 6, the Saints cut rookie kicker Zach Hocker because of a 1-for-3 performance in the victory. In his place is former Washington kicker Kai Forbath, a career 86.9% on field goals.
The Saints sought to keep momentum going at the start of their matchup with the Colts. However, after trading punts twice, it was clear that Newton’s laws of motion do not account for the six days between game days.
The Saints finally put together a longer drive on their third attempt, working the ball into opposing territory. However, after an incomplete pass on third down from the Indianapolis 26-yard line, the Saints sent out their kicking unit to attempt a 43-yard field goal:
New Orleans aligns on the hash, with new kicker Forbath lined up in place of Hocker. The Colts set up with six men towards the center of the field and will focus pressure in this direction, as the kick travels between the long snapper and left guard when on target.
The Colts keep two men off the line of scrimmage, Dwight Lowery (#33, left box) and D’Qwell Jackson (#52, right box) as kick safeties. Because Indianapolis aligns with only three men on the left side of the line of scrimmage, Lowery and Jackson are shaded to this side, as it presents the biggest opportunity for a fake. A fake to the other side would require navigating the increased traffic at the line of scrimmage. It would also require a right-handed quarterback ‒ backup Luke McCown ‒ rolling to left, forcing a more difficult throw.
The problem for Indianapolis is that New Orleans drew up this exact play. McCown takes the snap and fakes placing it for a kick before rolling out:
The six Colts on the right side of the line crash at the snap, hoping to block a kick that will never come. Jackson (blue box) recognizes McCown pulling the ball off the spot and starts to look for a receiver to cover. But he is slow reacting as tight end Ben Watson (#82) immediately runs past him toward the corner.
At least he is moving: Lowery (red box) has yet to move his feet at all and his reaction time can be measured with a sundial.
McCown rolls out with three defenders converging on him:
While many field goal units employ punters as holders, the Saints are fortunate to have McCown at the position. The primary reason is there are not many punters who can make a throw to the left corner while rolling to their left and being pursued by three defenders. While Johnny Hekker had an outstanding scramble and throw earlier this season, it is not something teams want or expect to see from their specialists on a regular basis.
McCown unloads the ball as a defender clobbers him:
Watson is several yards clear of Jackson and breaking for the corner. The tight end tracks the ball in flight and makes a catch in stride at the 11-yard line:
He turns upfield and looks for the end zone, eventually being brought down at the 1-yard line by Jackson after a 25-yard gain that set the Saints up for their first touchdown of the day, en route to a 27-21 win.
New Orleans saw the perfect look for this play, as the Colts defenders reading fake were on the opposite side of the formation and bringing pressure from the side of the fake, where the protection was centered. While it is a difficult play for McCown due to the rollout, it was perfectly executed by the Saints, who would ride the early lead to their third win of the year.
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Chuck Zodda knows the importance of staying in your lane, how to fake a punt return, the humanity of punters, proper placekicking technique and the Jets.
All video and images courtesy FOX Sports and the NFL.