I don't begrudge a coach for dialing up a little trickery. After all, the fake punt proved to be an important ingredient for the St. Louis Rams against the San Francisco 49ers last year. Jeff Fisher tried throwing another one in the mix to try and liven up a bland offensive stew in a loss this week to the 49ers.
This fake punt added nothing to the recipe. In fact, it ended up souring the whole thing, and it sealed the Rams fate when the 49ers took over on downs inside the red zone.
To his credit, Fisher took responsibility for the call following the game. From the Post-Dispatch:
"I tried to provide a spark for (the players) and I take responsibility for that. It was probably unfair to them. It knocked the wind out of their sails. We elected to try to steal a possession with the fake punt. ... In retrospect, had I known the outcome, I certainly wouldn't have called it. But I trust the guys to execute it."
The decision to go for the fake isn't so bad. Fisher gets props for not playing conservative as an underdog and facing a 10-point deficit with an offense stymied by the Niners defense. He maybe could have called a better play.
It was fourth-and-eight. Matt Giordano gets the direct snap, turns to his left for a toss to Stedman Bailey. Look where Bailey comes from on the play. He shifts over from the right to the left and then comes back to get the handoff. It's an awkward angle for Bailey and Giordano to make the connection.
San Francisco knew it was coming. The blockers get blown up at the line, pushed back into where the play is supposed to happen. Anthony Dixon said after the game they were prepared for it, and sure it enough, Dixon and another player swooped right in on Giordano, putting the ugly reverse out of its misery. The tip off was seeing that Johnny Hekker, the punter, didn't have the ball in his hands.
Bailey blamed the execution of the play. But it wasn't Giordano so much as it was the blockers getting blown up and pushed into the lane where the play was supposed to happen.
At least there wasn't a penalty.