A Discussion on Dave Toub's Brilliant "Fake" Punt Return

Even while the kickoff return game has been negated significantly by moronic NFL rule changes, Dave Toub and Chicago Bears special teams continue to provide the fan base with excited on-field moments.

The "fake" punt return was a stroke of football genius.  A veritable Brazzers clip for football x's and o's nerds like myself.  The Packers agreed, with Aaron Rodgers calling it the greatest football play call he'd ever seen.

Listening to the B.S. Report podcast with Cousin Sal (a weekly must for the gambling sort), an interesting point was raised: Why run that play down ten points with a minute remaining in a game you're going to lose?  There are two modes of thought on this:

  1. You can never run this play again so why not use when it has the chance to truly influence the outcome of a contest without the need to subsequently execute an onside kick.
  2. By running this play, the Bears have put it on film and now teams will have to spend time during the week preparing for it.  This will then make Devin Hester more lethal on returns.

After passing the the exhilaration of the experience, I think the play was completed wasted in a game that was over.  Where do you stand?

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  • it was awesome, gotta pull out the stops to win the game. we score and get an onside kick and everyone calls it the gutsiest call since the onside kick in the superbowl a couple years ago.

    can't please all the people all the time


  • In reply to Gucci Mang:

    Also, Adams is playing like shit.

  • In reply to Gucci Mang:

    I thought the same thing. He's getting pushed around in the run game.

  • In reply to TheFifth:

    gotta love the "calf strain". that is a silent killer.

  • First to say only with Hester and Knox can you pull this play off. I don't think it could work with any other punt return combo. Was the play wasted? No. If the hold penalty wasn't called, we are down by 3 at home. This is the only real time you call this play.

  • Who actually held on that play to draw the penalty? I was there live, so I never caught it?

  • In reply to buckbear:

    I believe Corey Graham was flagged.

  • In reply to SC Dave:

    Yep him.

  • In reply to Artoo:

    Did he actually hold anyone? I know he was flagged, but did he do it?

  • In reply to buckbear:

    pushed off on his guys shoulder about ten yards off the line of scrimmmage. Don't know if it was a hold, but it was enough to f-ck us.

  • I googled the term "Brazzers clip". Does it have some other meaning other than what Google is coming up with?

  • In reply to gpldan:

    Just porn.

  • I think a Brazzers clip is a euphemism for a money shot.

  • I don't think it was a waste. I think they will use it again. If anything, they now need to keep Knox and Hester our there.. more people to be unblocked.

  • "you play to win the game".

    Not a waste - it's on film. It's got to be tough enough to be a gunner in this league getting shoved into next week while you're running downfield in 4.5 seconds towards a meeting with Devin Hester -without- worrying about whether the punter really kicked it where you thought he did.

    W/O the holding penalty, which for once was completely inconsequential to the outcome of the return, we're down 3 with a minute left and a shot at an onsides kick. That is an awful lot of pressure on Green Bay after they've been kicking our ass all afternoon AND your ST unit just got pantsed.

  • The brilliance of the play is that the Green Bay kicker was set to angle a punt TO Hester, that's what he was supposed to do. He shanked the kick.

    Taub saw that he tended to do that, and assigned Knox to field a stray - and assigned all the other players to just set up for a return left - NO MATTER WHAT.

    That all the players sold that to the Packers, and nobody noticed that Knox caught it over there - without that tickey tack flag on Graham that play goes to Canton as one of the greatest trick plays in history.

  • Both are true actually, although the first point is slightly off -- with less than a minute left after the return, an onside kick is still necessary. But also both are (slightly) short-sighted.

    Like you (and virtually everyone) I thought this play would not be repeatable for a long time. For this reason, to me the play was only brilliant and not "genius"... at least on first reflection.

    After discussing this with others though, it became increasingly clear... This play not only makes Hester more dangerous by taking attention and bodies away from him, but it actually does much, much more. I'll actually use one of my friends words as he summed up our conversation best:

    "So, you either kick it to Hester and risk his return, or you kick away from Hester and he acts like he's getting it anyway."

    That, my friends, is fucking genius. What is the biggest tool opponents use right now to defend against Hester on PRs? That's right, kicking it away from him. Now, in one masterful stroke, every team has to worry about a big return whether they kick it to or away from him!

    This is all because coverage units key off the returner. They can't track the ball as it leaves the punter's foot and travels skyward without severely compromising their ability to break downfield, establish their lanes, and fight off blockers. So they key off the returner, at least until they establish their position and leverage. Also, even if they know the play design was to kick left, a shank is always possible, so they have to be prepared to cover right... and this is especially so with a returner as dangerous as Hester.

    So now every punt coverage unit has to simultaneously respect the fake (which the Bears have proved they can pull off, holding notwithstanding) and try to set up containment on Hester. This is a significant strain on reading keys and deploying coverage formation. I would not be surprised if some teams simply give up and choose to kick out of bounds, field position be damned... at least on critical punts. I also would not be surprised if Toub sends one or two guys to bail to the opposite field regularly now just to mess with teams' heads. The beauty is that these guys can still take part in return blocking, after drawing attention away from Hester.

    In other words, I disagree with you and all the commentary I've seen thus far on this play. It's a brilliant play, was not wasted (if it hadn't been called back, Toub's unit would have given themselves a chance to put the ball back in Cutler's hands to win/tie the game), and it was a genius strategic move that puts the league on notice that he has a deadly counter to the biggest anti-Hester tactic used to date.

    The only downside is that every team can now run variations of it, so it benefits (and hurts) every team in the league. But Chicago arguably gained the most, because they have the most credible threat (having actually executed it, as well as demonstrated the creative mind to come up with new ways to make it more deadly) and because while all returners may benefit, they have the most dangerous returner of them all...

  • In reply to Michael L:

    Er, sorry. By "you and all the commentary" I meant Jeff's original post plus all the articles I've seen online so far. I do agree with much of the comments posted here so far...

  • In reply to Michael L:

    Hell, line Hester up to jam the gunners once and see what happens with Knox back there to return the punt.

  • In reply to MikeBrownhadaPosse:

    What do you think that gunners going to do? He HAS to stick with 23 all the way downfield as opposed to tacking towards the PR...doesn't he?

  • In reply to Michael L:

    "So, you either kick it to Hester and risk his return, or you kick away from Hester and he acts like he's getting it anyway."

    Exactly. It should not only be repeated but Hester should do it on EVERY return. Force the opposition to look up into the sky for the ball, break their concentration. I think this is a paradigm shift. Well done Dave Toub.

  • In reply to IrishSweetness:

    Yep, I think it's very possible, Irish. Time will tell I guess. Maybe the impact will be less, but if there's one coach who I believe can get great mileage out of this... it's Toub.

    The only thing I have to add for now on this is that I hope MBP (or was it MB30?) finally sees fit to give Toub his props... and the benefit of the doubt while he pushes this unit to be the best STs in the league.

  • Against the Chargers or the Raiders later in the season (especially if the game isn't important in the playoff race), I agree. Don't waste a great play down 10.

    Against the Packers? You do everything to win the game. You fight till the last second. You absolutely give it a shot. If we were down 21 with a minute to play, maybe I'd agree with you. But run that touchdown in and we're a score away from winning or overtime.

    Plus, going for the onside kick is a better decision for us than for some other teams. We have a great D and a great ST... we can lean on them a bit more in the low percentage situations to try to get a win.

  • Have to give credit to Rodgers. He's a good sport. I've heard stories (including on this blog) of him taking hecklers in stride. And the guy was honest enough to say "heck yeah they made us look like idiots."

    Urlacher is the same way in interviews. These guys just love the game.

  • We went into the offseason and what was our biggest issue? Oline. We are now in week 4 and what is our biggest issue Oline.
    I hate angelo.
    I dont care how but fucking fix it.

  • Super Bowl contenders don't normally have to rely on trickery. While a brilliant play, it still didn't work.

  • In reply to BigDaddy:

    uhhhh...the Saints?

  • In reply to FQD1911:

    Read my words carefully FQ. Did it work?

  • In reply to BigDaddy:

    the Saints onside kick in the SB? yes it did work and they won it b/c of that (not sure if that's what you're referring to in the below post).

  • In reply to FQD1911:


  • In reply to BigDaddy:

    It didn't count - it did work.

  • In reply to BigDaddy:

    No team relied on more trickery than the Steelers during the Whisenhunt era.

  • In reply to Jeff Hughes:

    Oh how I wish the Bears could be assigned an "era' again. Alas, it just doesn't seem meant to be. Woe is us.

  • In reply to BigDaddy:

    The Angelo ''Error''

  • In reply to thebigcheese:

    That's actually pretty funny.

  • In reply to BigDaddy:

    Using trickery isn't gimmicky BD. Play-action is trickery. Misdirection runs are trickery. Pump-faking is trickery. We should use as much trickery as we can, no?

  • MB30 - nice find on the DeAngelo interview.

  • as of today, The Bears Rush Offense is ranked 31st, Passing Offense 17th, Rush Defense 18th, and Pass defense 26th.
    I believe blame should be handed to both sides of the ball.

  • I think the offensive stats are an accurate indication of their talent but you do have to throw out alot of the defensive stats based on how long they've had to stay on the field and who we played against. Going down 0-14 early in the game against the Cheese definitely has to be on the D though. It showed me that Nelli still didn't have an answer for stopping Rogers. Kinda reminded me of what happened to us in the Championship game last year.

  • In reply to BigDaddy:

    I'm curious as to whether any particular defensive scheme does a better job of handling this new breed of 6'5"+ receiver, as Finley really is, versus any other.

  • In reply to MikeBrownhadaPosse:

    Yeah, get to the QB. Very quickly.

  • In reply to MikeBrownhadaPosse:

    I think players like that are going to get their catches. But check out the Superbowl a couple years back when the Steelers pretty much shut down Larry Fitzgerald for three quarters. Then again... he did get two touchdowns in the fourth.

  • In reply to BigDaddy:

    I'll give the defense the benefit of the doubt Fres. They're tired because we're back to not converting our third downs and they're out on the field a lot. Marinelli isn't blitzing and we're giving QBs time to throw. Can't do that. Can't. Can't. Can't.

  • Doing my community service for this month (you're welcome Doc): http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/05/preparedness-101-zombie-apocalypse/

    And: http://www.cdcfoundation.org/zombies

    Of course because of political correctness, they don't provide weapons suggestions. I'll leave that up to you as individuals.

  • This play was in fact genius. But the timing of it was even more brilliant. Angelo and Lovie forced Toub's hand. The Chicago braintrust, aware that the game was well over, called for that play, and instructed Corey Graham to grab jarrett bush from behind while he was in plain sight.

    Now, the suffering fanbase can whine about the holding call instead of asking Smith and Angelo why they've let the Bears get punked by their arch-rivals in 6 of their last 8 games. How else do you explain running that play down 10 with 4 seconds left? How else do you expect Angelo and Smith to keep their jobs?

  • In reply to thebigcheese:

    **this is not to say that da bears blog in particular is whining about it, but it is more directed toward the youtube video titled "worst holding call in NFL history", complete with its insightful comments.

  • In reply to thebigcheese:

    40 seconds left*

  • In reply to thebigcheese:

    It was 1:07 left on the clock when the ball was snapped.

  • In reply to MikeBrownhadaPosse:

    You're right (well actually it was 1:10). That's even more time for Jay Cutler and the offense to go backwards after somehow recovering an onside kick.

  • In reply to thebigcheese:

    Can't argue that but it's at least two additional plays.

  • In reply to thebigcheese:

    I would submit that's what the bears do best... hit the big play. They may have a lot of trouble stringing together sustained, well balanced drives that eat up lots of yardage and clock... but they are good at hitting the single, out-of-nowhere long-shot pass down the sideline to one of our speedsters.

    All moot of course, but since you tried to make the point.

  • btw, the funniest part of that clip is their punter pulling a fucking superman miss at the end. Gotta give it up to that dude for layin it all out there.

  • In reply to MB30SD:

    Yeah he's the one that let Hester posterize him last year.

  • so I've been trying to see where the call actually was, and I found it.

    So at the very beginning of the clip (second 2-4) look at the gunner who's out of the main frame for the actually kick, as soon as he kicks it the camera pans out and the guy at the very top left of the screen is CG. He doesn't hold but kind of 'yanks' his pads for a split second, but they are both still running full speed and it doesn't impede any progress.

    I'll let each of you make the call on whether the flag was warranted, I just wanted to actually see the thing.

  • In reply to MB30SD:


    up close view

  • In reply to thebigcheese:

    Use of Hands, Arms, and Body
    No player on offense may assist a runner except by blocking for him. There shall be no interlocking interference.

    A runner may ward off opponents with his hands and arms but no other player on offense may use hands or arms to obstruct an opponent by grasping with hands, pushing, or encircling any part of his body during a block. Hands (open or closed) can be thrust forward to initially contact an opponent on or outside the opponent’s frame, but the blocker immediately must work to bring his hands on or inside the frame.

    Note: Pass blocking: Hand(s) thrust forward that slip outside the body of the defender will be legal if blocker immediately worked to bring them back inside. Hand(s) or arm(s) that encircle a defender—i.e., hook an opponent—are to be considered illegal and officials are to call a foul for holding.

    Blocker cannot use his hands or arms to push from behind, hang onto, or encircle an opponent in a manner that restricts his movement as the play develops.

  • In reply to PegLeg:

    from NFL.com.

    Bullshit, ticky-tack whatever... I'm not sure it was THE difference. It was a great play though...

  • In reply to MB30SD:

    Took the ref five seconds to find the hankey; that pissed me off more than anything.

  • I think Toub had to use it against the Packers. I don't think he should have waited until the game was virtually over, but I think it had to be against Green Bay for two reasons: 1). if you're gonna fool somebody, it should be your rivals. 2), They are perhaps the most poorly coached ST unit in the league.

  • In reply to thebigcheese:

    3) No other punter in the NFL shanks his directional punts.

    Again, you are setting up a ST unit to perform trickery, ready to put the show on, not knowing he's gonna shank it.

    That's what makes it so crazy. They prepared a ruse for something unlikely to ever happen, they just had it in there in case it did.

  • In reply to gpldan:

    Do you actually know that he shanked it? Because I heard (several times) that it was a called punt to the left.

    Also, it's very possible that he called this play all game, but they had to wait for the right kick to actually go through with it.

    This play doesn't work if Masthay gets it another foot to the left and out of bounds. Which brings me to the next issue. Ideally, kickers just try and kick it out of bounds when Hester is back there anyways......

  • In reply to thebigcheese:

    But directionally punting out of bounds is, evidently, way harder than it looks. Although, the risk of setting up the Bears at the 40 due to a shank versus the risk of what came very close to happening would seem to say, kick it out of bounds next time, dummy!
    Hell, Dodge was supposed to kick it OOB versus the Eagles and look what happened there.

  • In reply to thebigcheese:

    The Trib called it a shank. I assumed it was a shank. It doesn't look from the replay that any other Packer has any idea it's going left.

  • Irish -

    This one is special ordered... just for you


    Remember that Grover Sesame Street book you had as a kid? The one where Grover tells you NOT to turn the page. Yeah, everyone else - don't click the above link, you won't like it.

  • In reply to gpldan:

    Yep. They're going to do it again. These Bankers are going to repeat the process of three years ago and ask for another bail-out and there should be blood on the streets when they do. We need to educate our kids - and their parents - and fight these bastards and take back issuing control of our money. It's unconstitutional for private banks like the Fed to issue your money, write your congressman to repeal the Federal Reserve act, it's the very least you can do as American citizens. Crooked conniving cocksuckers each and every one. God Bless America.

    "Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes her laws."
    - Mayer Amschel Rothschild

    "I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."
    - Thomas Jefferson

    Doesn't it boil your blood? We are now resuming normal programming.

  • Not sure if you guys saw this from the last thread... I think I dead Posted it.

    From Jeff's twitter feed above... MattB laying it down: http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Trying-to-fix-the-Bears-offense.html

    Good read.

    Oh, and thanks for that GP... should I find a nice tall bridge now, or just wait?

  • In reply to MB30SD:

    Wait. Esp. if your stateside, because the dollar might go way way up.

    Then we can go over to Germany and buy loads and loads of beer for pennies.

  • In reply to gpldan:

    We're already seeing the rand fall. My parents are about to go back to Cape Town to sustain their endless summer life and my dad is giddy. I sent him the clip and told him to wait a bit more to exchange more dollahs.

    Germany! My seahawks fan buddy is over in Munich right now for business/Oktoberfest - he was beggin me to join him. I'll pick you up on my way over GP... there's gotta be a connecting flight outta O'Hare...

    ...oh shit... wait... I'm married... with two young kids... who both have colds right now. Oh well. For a second there...

  • In reply to MB30SD:

    speaking of... johnny, when are you guys due mang? IS that why you've been missing a lot?

  • In reply to gpldan:

    It's probably the one currency that's forever in the shitter Dan. When every dollar printed is borrowed at interest and skyrocketing the national debt at the same time it's just a cyclical thing there's no way out of. Except of course for the solution.


  • Also, I thought this bares mentioning on this blog since there are some futbol fans: http://uncrate.com/stuff/fifa-soccer-12/

  • Why did Lovie tell/allow Toub to pull the trigger on this play when he did?

    Two possibilities:
    1) Lovie told Toub "next punt, call that play." And, because Lovie wasn't paying attention, the "next punt" was when the game was almost over, rather than during the 3rd quarter.

    2) Lovie was expecting lightning to strike twice, and this game would be the Arizona "crown their asses" all over again.

    Really, you don't need to look any further than Lovie's incompetence as a game manager. This IS the guy who called a timeout before challenging a call that he obviously would not get reversed, costing the team TWO timeouts, remember?

  • Actually Toub called for the punt return at the end of the 3rd qtr, but THAT was when masthay shanked it...Toub knew he liked punting left, so tried it again in the 4th and it worked....we were down 20-10 when he called it the first time...would've been nice!!

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