The fake punt the Bears ran that backfired in an embarrassing way on Sunday at Green Bay is still in the playbook.
Leading 12-10 early in the fourth quarter, and facing fourth-and-11 from their own 26-yard line, the Bears tried a run up the middle by running back Garrett Wolfe, who is the personal protector on punts. Long snapper Pat Mannelly had counted 12 players on the field for the Packers, the play was to see if Wolfe could pick up the first down. Otherwise, the Bears would line up and punt again after a five-yard penalty.
"He saw 12 and there was 12,'' special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "He turns around to tell Garrett. As soon as he turned, the guy [Clay Matthews] ran off the field. He didn't see him run off the field and he still thought there were 12. It's a no-brainer if there are 12. It's a first down or you kick it again.''
Mannelly, a 12-year veteran from Duke with a sterling resume, accepted full responsibility afterward for the error. The Bears challenged the play, but officials counted just 11, noting Matthews got off the field on time after the replay review. Toub said Wolfe should have been more aware also in the pre-snap communications.
"You just have to check it,'' Toub said. "Garrett has to check it as well. He could have checked it. It's something that is a rare thing, something we talk about but not something we sit out here and practice. Garrett could see it and make a call to alert Pat."
So, if 12 Steelers are on the field when the Bears line up to punt on Sunday, look for Wolfe to get the ball again. After a re-count, of course.
While on the subject of fake kicks, I'd like to recount one of my favorite fake kick stories in following the game. I was covering the Eastern Washington-Idaho State game in 1994 at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho, when EWU coach Mike Kramer called for not one, not two but three fake kicks. None of them worked in a 21-16 loss for him. It's been a while and I can't remember the combination, if it was two fake punts and one fake field goal or the other way around, but I remember tracking down Kramer in the hallway afterward.
"I was looking for the element of surprise,'' Kramer told me. "I figured they knew no one was dumb enough to call a second fake after the first one failed. After the second one, I knew they wouldn't be expecting it. How could they? No one is stupid enough to try a third after the first two were botched.''