The worst part about the illegal shift penalty that negated a touchdown on a fake field goal last Sunday was that it cost the Giants points. The worst part since Sunday, though, is that the Giants will not get another chance to use it again for a long time.
"Plays like that, it’s a one-and-done type of deal," special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said on Thursday, still sighing and bummed by the lost opportunity. "You probably have to put it in the bank for another year and a half before you can break it out."
The crux of the play worked seamlessly. Evan Engram pretended to trot off the field after third down, mingled a bit in the traffic as the offense switched places with the kicking unit, then lined up uncovered as a receiver. "He should get an Academy Award for that," McGaughey said. Then punter/holder Riley Dixon threw a pass to Engram for the would-be touchdown. The penalty came because Cam Fleming and Nick Gates were still moving when the ball was snapped.
McGaughey, like coach Joe Judge, refused to say whether the linemen were slow to their stances or if the snap was rushed.
"There were a few things that went wrong," McGaughey said. "Ultimately at the end of the day we didn’t get it done. When you get a chance to make a play like that you have to execute the play and that’s really disappointing."
Now, of course, opposing teams will be wise to the trick and have eyes on Engram and the rest of the Giants’ sideline whenever they send their field goal unit onto the field. That would have been the case had the Giants been successful, too, but at least they would have gotten the points (and probably the win with the way the rest of the game was played) from it. Instead it becomes a brainstorm the Giants had that was exposed without any benefit.
The Giants likely have other fakes and gadget plays in their special teams playbook, and McGaughey has spoken often about taking advantage of Dixon’s passing abilities. But this play that they invested so much thought and practice time into developing and then springing at just the right moment?
Back in the drawer it goes.
Notes & quotes: Sterling Shepard had his first on-field work on Thursday since suffering a turf toe injury in Week 2, but he has yet to be officially designated to return from injured reserve. "We’ll see how he’s moving around today and see where that leads into Sunday," Judge said before the workout. Without much actual practice time, though, Shepard would seem more likely to return to the lineup next week when the Giants face Philadelphia on Thursday night … Regarding his mentor Nick Saban testing positive for the coronavirus this week, Judge said: "He’ll probably beat COVID. He has a pretty good record against every other opponent, so I’m confident Coach will come through this."