I know what the Colts' problem was Sunday night.
Forget the crazy formation, the "miscommunication" or anything else that happened during or after the failed trick play, because it's really secondary to the root disease Indy suffered from, known to many people in the NFL as BGS.
Big. Game. Syndrome.
I first heard about it my rookie year with the Redskins from veteran offensive guard Dave Szott, now the director of player engagement for the Jets. We had gone from 0-5 to 5-5 and with a matchup against the Cowboys on the horizon. Szott noticed a strong hint of BGS among the coaches and pointed it out not only to them but to some of the players as well.
BGS is the tendency of teams, in particular coaching staffs, to work harder, longer and be more uptight when a big game is coming up. It may be a primetime game for a team that doesn't play in a lot of them. It could be a heated rivalry against a divisional foe. Maybe it's both. At any rate, even if the term wasn't exactly prevalent among players throughout my career, there is no question it existed and likewise no doubt in my mind it produced what we saw on Sunday night in the much-hyped Deflategate rematch against the hated Patriots. It was the biggest factor behind the Colts attempting the worst fake punt attempt in the history of the NFL, though saying that feels like an insult to actual fake punt attempts over the years.
In fact, I feel like I see a lot of BGS from teams when they face the Pats. Whether it is the belief they have to do something special to knock off such a strong team or a self-indulgent desire to outsmart Bill Belichick, it seems like teams consistently do things out of their comfort zone against New England. Sunday night was no different.
Griff Whalen at center snapping the ball to Colt Anderson at quarterback? What?
Colts players and coaches have insisted it was just a "miscommunication," but I would love to see video of what happens when that play works to perfection.
Everything about the play is the essence of BGS: Coaches spending extra time trying to come up with new schemes in order to defeat a particular opponent on a big stage.
A lot of times when I was playing, it manifested itself in more formations and plays in the offensive game plan than normal. More "tools in the toolbox" for the offensive coordinator, I guess. Without question, there were more trick plays practiced and installed during those weeks, somewhat akin to the "Homecoming Plays" we see sometimes in high school and especially college football.
The bottom line is that it is the idea that coaches feel they have to do more than they normally do because of the significance of the game. While coach Chuck Pagano and the Colts would surely deny it, is there any other plausible explanation?
What makes matters worse is that I was always taught on every team I ever played for that you don't run an "exotic" (a bastardized term for trick plays) without practicing them over and over again to the point where every player on the field is keenly aware of what their responsibility may be under any plausible scenario. Sometimes trick plays, in fact, are run for weeks in practice before actually installed in a game plan.
Clearly the Colts did not do that. We saw proof Sunday.