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Quick Inside Slant: Week 8

Impressions of the 2014 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

Music City Miracle

Every play worthy of the moniker of “awesome” has some degree of trickery to it. Last week, I went on and on about the St. Louis Rams’ punt return being the Most Awesome Play Ever. I make no apologies for that. But in the interest of clarity, and not at all because it’s Halloween, I will offer you this – a list of the Top Five Most Awesome Trick Plays Ever. Or at least in my lifetime.

First of all, when I say the word “awesome,” I’m speaking in terms of creativity in play design. Like I said, there’s not a lot that surprises me anymore. You want to send the quarterback out for a pass? Cool. Good luck. But that’s not making my list. The plays that made this list all made me get out of my chair and shout “Holy Toledo, now that’s what I call football!” at no one in particular. And it should be noted that I am still young compared to some people in this world. I probably would have had a similar reaction to the flea flicker or the halfback pass the first time that ever happened, but they were introduced to me the same day as the rest of football. It was part of the original upload so it’s always been there. But the St. Louis Rams’ punt return was new. Like Google Chrome.

Also worth noting is that I’m not necessarily considering plays of importance like “The Helmet Catch” or “The Catch,” or wacky plays like “The Immaculate Reception” or “The Improbable Bobble,” or hilarious plays like “The Butt Fumble” or anytime punters have to improvise. My only criteria are play design and execution. And with that said, here is that list. Because people on the internet only read lists.

Top Five Most Awesome Trick Plays Ever

Honorable Mention – Music City Miracle: At the heart of this play is basically a lateral across the field on a punt return, which isn’t really newsworthy. But the fact that it happened with 16 seconds left in the Wild Card round of the playoffs to win the game cemented it as an awesome play. Jeff Fisher, coach of the new Tennessee Titans team, played the tendency for teams who are winning a game with less than a minute left to “squib kick” or “pooch kick” the kickoff, meaning that they would kick the ball short to take the ball out of the hands of the quick punt returner folks back deep. Usually, some backup linebacker would catch the ball and get decent field position – maybe around the 35 – but would not be a threat to score. In this case, the Titans planned for that kick, and had Kevin Dyson waiting on the left sideline for Frank Wycheck to torque himself just before impact of the Bills’ kick coverage team, and toss the ball to him with just a couple blockers waiting to smother the kicker and walk into the end zone. On this particular play, Lorenzo Neal, the fullback, recovered the kick and had to run to Wycheck to get him the ball to start the play. That should have been a red flag to the coverage team, but since no one had seen it before, no one could react that fast. And how long had Jeff Fisher had that play in his pocket? It’s not like you can plan to be down by a point with 16 seconds left in the game. Or can you? That Jeff Fisher is a clever one.

Riley Cooper

Honorable Mention #2 – Lying down in the end zone: This is such a backyard play, it’s ridiculous that anybody ever tried it in the NFL. But Riley Cooper came out after halftime of a Monday Night game against the Saints and laid down in the end zone for the ensuing kickoff. If Brandon Boykin hadn’t thrown the ball about three yards forward, this play might have made my list. The Jets just tried it this past week against the Bills and got embarrassed, as quite honestly, one should when you lay down in the end zone in the NFL.

Honorable Mention #3 – Kicker Up the Middle: I haven’t been able to find proof of this, but I remember seeing Koy (or Ty) Detmer receive the snap on an extra point or field goal attempt, place it down for a second, and then pick it up and hand it off to David Akers, who, instead of kicking the ball, ran right up the middle with it for a touchdown. Or a two-point conversion. And he was virtually untouched. I assume the Eagles noticed a tendency in the placekick defense for whatever team they were playing to overload a certain area and leave another area void of people. Well it worked. I think.

#5 – The 2007 Fiesta Bowl Statue of Liberty: First of all, yes, this is college. I assume you’re over that already. Second, if you haven’t watched the 2007 Fiesta Bowl yet, put it on your Netflix queue. Yes, it has its own disc, that’s how awesome it was. I’ve seen the Statue of Liberty play before – heck, I’ve run the play before, but never has it been run with such zeal and creativity. Jared Zabransky, quarterback of the undefeated Boise State Broncos, faked a bubble screen and put the ball behind his back for Ian Johnson to grab and take with him untouched into the end zone for a 2-point conversion to win the game over heavily favored Oklahoma. This play would also go in my Top 5 Gutsiest Plays and Top 5 Best Finishes, among probably another five Top Five lists.

#4 – The Cover Two Switcharoo: There was a play that went unnoticed by everyone in the world except me. There’s no reason anyone should remember this play. It was an interception Peyton Manning threw in the regular season against the Saints when they were coached by Jim Haslett. I’m not even sure of the outcome of the game, but it doesn’t matter for this. Anyway, on this particular play, the Saints were showing a Cover Two pre-snap look. At the snap, the right safety retreated to the middle of the field. This was Peyton’s read. This told him that the defense had shifted into a one-deep safety, opening up the seam route on the hash marks. So he threw the ball. It was intercepted by the safety from the left side of the field. The replay showed that the two safeties crossed on the snap of the ball to take each other’s original coverage responsibilities. Why would they do that? It seems like a lot of work to put people in the spots other people just came from. Well, exactly for the reason it worked. They wanted to appear to disguise their defense, while really keeping it the same, knowing Peyton would assume that teams were trying to disguise their defense. It was an awesome exploitation of a tendency for good quarterbacks to key on a safety and throw the ball according to what that safety does. Nine times out of nine, when a safety runs to the middle of the field on the snap, it’s to play a single-high safety. Who the heck would think to switch the two safeties? Exactly.

#3 – The Hall of Fame Fake Punt: There are too many preseason games in the NFL. This may be the only way to keep my attention. On this meaningless play in a meaningless game, the Titans’ punter, A. J. Trapasso, faked a punt, put the ball behind his back to fake a Statue of Liberty to some other guy, and then ran for a 40-yard touchdown. The Bills team had three unblocked players who had to think they had a blocked punt – and then when they didn’t, they had to think they had tackled the ball carrier for a loss of 15. But this ridiculous play, concocted once again by Jeff Fisher (notice a theme here?), fooled everyone. And then the play and the punter were never to be seen again.

Pat McAfee

#2 – The Suicide Onside: There is a specific kind of surprise onside kick attempt called the “Suicide Onside,” in which the kicker will line up as if it’s a normal kickoff, tap the ball forward slowly, scrunch up in a ball at the recovery line 10 yards away, and wait for the ball to get there, praying he doesn’t get his back broken by some backup linebacker who just figured out what’s going on. I am pretty sure the first time I saw this was with Phil Dawson and the Cleveland Browns about 10-15 years ago, but five minutes of internet research – which somehow led to two hours of watching cat videos on youtube – proved inconclusive. However, Pat McAfee just pulled this off a couple weeks ago against the Texans and it has become a fairly common occurrence since the first time I saw it and jumped out of my chair, shouting “Holy Toledo, now that’s what I call football!”

#1 – The Gunner Runner: You’re probably sick of reading about this play here, so I’ll keep it short. But this is the most creative exploitation of a tendency used widely throughout the NFL game that I’ve ever seen. And now it has a name. Or at least I gave it a name. Patent pending. I’m just looking forward to what Jeff Fisher will think of next.

So those are my Top Five (Eight) Most Awesome Trick Plays Ever. If you disagree or have something to add, I’d love to hear it. It’s possible I missed something. After all, I’ve only seen a quarter of a million plays. There are many more I haven’t.

Dustin Fisher is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and stay-at-home dad. Follow along with his dad blog at http://daddyneedsanap.com/ or buy his first book, Daddy Issues.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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Comments
One Response to “Quick Inside Slant: Week 8”
  1. Larry says:

    I consider myself a football fan but I am not familiar with these except for the Motor City Miracle.