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Chuck Pagano stands by Colts’ fourth down play call “wholeheartedly”

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In the third quarter of Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans, the Colts decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from the Texans 8 yard line instead of take the field goal. The play the team decided to run was a shotgun pass from Andrew Luck, but his first reads were covered, leading to a sack.

It wound up not really hurting the Colts, as two plays later the Texans threw an interception (on a great play by Vontae Davis) and two plays after that Andrew Luck rushed for a 14 yard touchdown. It’s likely that sequence wouldn’t have happened had the Colts kicked the field goal and then kicked off to the Texans, so in the end it’s a minuscule discussion point - but at the same time, a lot of people are indeed discussing it.

The majority of the discussion hasn’t been on the decision to go for it (there were plenty of media guys who said Pagano should have kicked it at the time but who seem to have come around) but rather about the play call. A shotgun pass on 4th and 1? What?

Head coach Chuck Pagano stands behind the call.

“Depending on how you line up and the personnel you have in the game,” he explained today, “and I think it was third and that much [indicates short distance with hands], and the way we lined up and what they did to defend it, we got that much [indicates shorter distance with hands], which led to a fourth and less than one, so I think based on the personnel, whether we line up under center or whether we line up in the shotgun, you’re going to get some different looks. So I stand behind the call wholeheartedly. And they executed and we didn’t. That’s the bottom line there.”

Pagano also agreed that the Colts should be able to get one yard in that situation, saying that they had the right idea in mind. “Absolutely,” he said. “And we got the ball in the right guy’s hands [Andrew Luck’s] and again, we didn’t execute. But it takes all eleven, it doesn’t fall on one guy, it takes all eleven. They did and we didn’t.”

Last night, Pagano had also used the same reasoning to explain the call. “That’s the play that we liked, and it didn’t work,” he said. “They executed. We didn’t. That’s the philosophy.” And as for the decision to go for it, Pagano said, “Yeah, we were going to fire. We were going to leave everything, no regrets.”

There’s certainly plenty of reason to criticize the play call itself, as going in the shotgun in that situation limited what the team could do. The Colts wanted to get a short pass off to the left, but those routes were covered - leaving Luck no options and leading to a sack. It was actually the ninth called pass play on third or fourth and 1 this year, though the Colts have converted on just three of them (with two coming on scrambles). Meanwhile, they have converted on four of six rushing attempts in that same situation. So while the decision to go for it was fine and while it didn’t really have much of an impact on the outcome, it’s fair to question the play call - even though Pagano wholeheartedly defends it.