Chiefs punt gamble pays dividend against Falcons

The Kansas City Chiefs prepared to pull off a heist early in the second half against the Atlanta Falcons, and the entire operation sounds more reminiscent of a scene from “Ocean’s 11” than a football game.

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson takes a fake punt for a 55-yard touchdown run during the team's 29-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome Dec. 4, 2016. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR, Chiefs.com)

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson takes a fake punt for a 55-yard touchdown run during the team’s 29-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome Dec. 4, 2016. (Photo courtesy Chiefs PR, Chiefs.com)

Coach Andy Reid gave all the credit to special team’s coordinator Dave Toub for Albert Wilson’s 55-yard jaunt for a touchdown on a fake return, so maybe Toub’s 11 is a more apt name.

“He felt it there and gave me the secret nod on it and put it on and went with it,” Reid told reporters after the game.

The scene began Kansas City’s first possession of the second half on third-and-8 for the Chiefs from their own 38-yard line. Quarterback Alex Smith fired short pass on an out to the right side toward Tyreek Hill. Hill ran to the first-down line, but came back for the ball and ran out of bounds a yard short of the marker.

The Chiefs initially showed a willingness to go for the fourth-and-1 from their on 45-yard line. The Chiefs came to the as the Falcons defense scrambled to get set. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn called timeout.

Quinn didn’t like his team’s play call against the personnel the Chiefs had on the field.

“It was just a little back and forth match against them and their offense,” Quinn said. “It was just a matter of in that situation against the call we wanted to go to a different spot and see if they’d go to a different spot.”

The Chiefs sent their punt team on the field following the television break. That’s when Toub and Reid exchanged the secret nod.

“I was working on a couple other things going back and forth and he gave me the nod,” Reid said.

Wilson, lined up as the personal protector, stood ready for the play call.

“If I even hear something that rhymes with it I’m going to go with it,” Wilson said. “Especially in that situation where I can just touch the ball.”

Toub and the special teams unit created the fake this week just for the Falcons.

“It’s something that we just put in,” Wilson said. “Coach does a great job of scheming teams on the special teams.”

Longsnapper James Winchester delivered a perfect snap to Wilson, who slipped through a crack created by Winchester, tight end James O’Shaughnessy and linebacker D.J. Alexander. By the time Wilson popped through the hole, he had only punt returner Eric Weems to beat.

“D.J.’s side was kind of light,” Wilson explained, “so I knew that he was going to be able to get up in the hole to block, so I just had to worry about catching the snap. I knew that it would be a good play.”

Quarterback Alex Smith said he had no idea the team was pulling off the trick play.

“I was over there looking at plays from the third down that had just happened,” Smith said, “then all of a sudden I heard the roar of the crowd and looked up. It was pretty sweet.”

Touchdown on fake punt runs are relatively rare. The Jacksonville Jaguars turned in the last one in week four of the 2008 season.

Wilson pulled off the rare feat in his home away from home of sorts.

“I spent four years playing here for Georgia State and to play as the away team in this dome was kind of strange for the first time,” Wilson said. “I had family here. Really it wasn’t any different though as I was here with my team, my family and playing football.”

The fake punt and its aftermath proved critical to the game’s outcome. The play extended the Chiefs’ lead to 27-16. The two-score deficit encouraged Quinn to gamble on two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter, which failed.

That in turn led to another two-point conversion after the Falcons moved ahead 28-27. Chiefs safety Eric Berry picked off a Matt Ryan pass on the two-point try and returned it for a defensive score, putting the Chiefs back on top for good 29-28.

The timeout the Falcons burned also turned out costly. Smith connected with Wilson for a 10-yard gain on third-and-6 on the first play following the two-minute warning. Atlanta could only stop the clock once, allowing Smith to take a knee three straight downs to secure the win.

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Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.

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