Nat Berhe, who took the direct snap as an upback on Sunday and ran for 2 yards on a fake punt, had not carried the football as an offensive player since he was a high school running back in 2008. And that was four years after the last time the Giants called a fake punt.
That’s how rare such trickery has been in the Giants’ repertoire. You have to go all the way back to Nov. 15, 2004 – the game before Eli Manning’s consecutive start streak began – for the last time they attempted such a play. Jeff Feagles threw an incomplete pass to fullback Jim Finn on fourth-and-5 at Arizona.
“We run it all the time [in practice],” Berhe said. “We’re always given the opportunity if it comes up, we always put the check on it. It just looked good. So, why not?”
Berhe did not act independently, of course. That would be insane.
Oh, wait. In 2011 a Giants player actually did that. Punter Steve Weatherford took it upon himself to try to run for a first down on fourth-and-11 against the Saints and was stopped at the line of scrimmage. So technically, the Giants haven’t called a fake punt since 2004.
The call on Sunday came from special teams coordinator Tom Quinn and head coach Ben McAdoo. If Berhe saw a defensive look where he could gain the 1 yard needed for the first down in that situation, he was able to take the snap.
“You can check out of it or keep it on, so I just kept it on,” he said. “I knew if I could just catch it it would definitely be a first down.”
For Zak DeOssie, the Giants’ 11-year veteran long snapper, the opportunity was a first.
“You just try to throw it a little softer,” DeOssie said of his role in the play. “If you throw it at the speed of a [regular] long snap you have no chance. So you throw a little lollipop up there and trust he’ll grab it and go.”
The game was filled with all kinds of anomalies.
It was the first NFL game in which both teams had non-quarterbacks throw interceptions since Nov. 11, 1973, when San Diego receiver Ron Holliday and Denver kicker Jim Turner were each picked off. It was the first time since 1952 that the Giants played consecutive games in which a defensive lineman intercepted a pass (Damon Harrison did against the Chiefs after Olivier Vernon did against the 49ers). And it was the first non-strike game since 1976 that the Giants started two undrafted rookies on offense with fullback Shane Smith and right tackle Chad Wheeler on the field for the first play.
But the fake punt was the most immediate and noticeable departure from the norm. It certainly seemed to catch the Chiefs off guard.
“It was successful, so I would have to assume so,” DeOssie said.
Now that it’s on film, though, it may be more challenging to run again. The Giants could just wait another 13 years. Or they could use it to their advantage.
Asked how often the team takes the field with an intent to run a fake punt but checks out of it, DeOssie was coy.
“That’s a secret,” he said. “Every time?”