"Fake Toss 39 Taxi Naked Right Screen Left" is the name of the play that defeated the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in overtime. It comes from the mad mind of Indianapolis Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians.
We have said this all year: It's very difficult to dislike Bruce Arians.
Do we agree with every decision, play design, or gameplan he's made? No, of course not. No coach is perfect, and coach worship is for Indiana University basketball fans and other such sheep. In the NFL, the coach is a scum-sucking dirt bag... unless he wins. Then, he's acceptable. Winning is expected, and coaches that win are simply earning their money. Coaches that don't aren't worth a bucket of moose piss.
[Note: The paragraph above was just one, long excuse for me to end an article section with the words "moose piss." That, and I like bashing I.U. fans for their Bob Knight-Tom Crean demigod worship.]
For four games, Bruce Arians has very much been earning his money. Since taking over on an interim basis for Chuck Pagano, who is still undergoing treatment for leukemia, the Colts are 3-1 and winning by making clutch plays in crunch time.
One such play was "Fake Toss 39 Taxi Naked Right Screen Left." That was the play the featured Andrew Luck tossing a screen to Vick Ballard, who then galloped for ten yards before soaring through the air for the final six, landing on the left-front pylon for a game-winning touchdown in overtime to beat the Titans.
The play is one that Arians saw in a college game three years ago. He liked it so much that he thought to implement it this week. In his post-game press conference following the 19-13 Colts win, Arians said:
I gotta credit... I don't know what college team I was watching three years ago when I saw that play. We talked about it Tuesday. I said, I'm going to put this play in and see what it looks like. Every time we ran it in practice, it looked just like that. So, we called it. The game-winner.
If you want a very clear example of the difference between the Bill Polian-Jim Caldwell era of the Colts and the new era, that decision to implement that play is it. A play the Colts had never run or, seemingly, practiced before it was implemented on Tuesday before a game ended up winning the game.
The play, which Arians said is called "Fake Toss 39 Taxi Naked Right Screen Left," was a fake pitch left by Andrew Luck. The fake pitch went in Ballard's direction before he slipped out into the left flat. Luck then turned, rolled right, and looked as if he's going to throw to the right side of the field. However, Luck stopped, turned again, and threw back across the field to Ballard. Ballard then took the screen and did the rest with a wall of blockers in front of him.
It was a play that totally threw the Titans for a loop. Here's ESPN's Paul Kuharsky interviewing Titans players after the game:
"That was definitely something different," Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner said. "Fake toss, roll back and then throw back to the toss guy. I’ve never seen that play before, ever. That was the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that. It definitely worked."
Now, as outstanding as the call was, it could have gone horribly wrong if the execution was just a hair off. Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley saw the play developing before Luck threw the pass, and he nearly jumped the passing lane in time to pick the ball off. Had he done so, he'd likely have returned it 84 yards the other way for a Titans touchdown.
"I threw it and I saw a Titans uniform flash and said, ‘Oh, God, this may be the end of the game in the wrong way,’" Luck said. "I saw Vick catch it, I saw I don’t know who it was driving a guy, and what a wonderful individual effort by Vick Ballard to get in there."
Wimbley, who recorded just half-a-sack on Luck Sunday (he shared the sack with Derrick Morgan) to go with two tackles, said of the play:
"It was just out of my reach."
Again, not all Arians calls are pretty. Not all his decisions are sound. Example: Why was he having Luck and company throw the ball with 45 seconds left with the game tied and and the offense backed up near their own goal-line? It was a decision that nearly cost him the game as what seemed like a pretty clear fumble by Dwayne Allen was ruled otherwise because the refs blew the whistle before the ball came out.
Arians isn't perfect. There is no Cult of Arians here at Stampede Blue.
But, dammit it is hard not to like the gambling, bald-headed maniac that is our favorite team's offensive coaching equivalent of Dr. Frankenstein! Calling "Fake Toss 39 Taxi Naked Right Screen Left" on 2nd-and-10 from the Titans 16 in overtime was batsh*t-bonkers-genius! That's what I like to see in coaches.
Arians, when asked why he decided to run that play at that critical time in the game:
"You just roll the dice and go with it."
Keep rollin', coach. Keep rollin'.