Desperate times call for desperate measures, and that was especially true for a Washington Redskins team boasting a 2-6 record with the Denver Broncos (6-2) coming to town on November 15, 2009. Jim Zorn’s squad needed a spark, and they got it in the form of a wild trick play that everyone saw coming.
To be clear, your opponent isn’t supposed to know a trick play is being dialed up. But when Washington jogged onto the field facing fourth-and-20, and tight end Todd Yoder lined up at wide receiver, everyone at FedEx Field knew a fake was coming. Too bad Washington had 10 men on the field, forcing Zorn to burn a timeout.
That wouldn’t stop the lowly Redskins from trying the same thing again.
Washington returned with a similar look, initially lining up for the 52-yard field goal attempt. As the Denver defenders recalled after the game, Washington’s sideline yelled out, “Let’s just punt it! Let’s just punt it!” Washington shifted into punt formation with the team’s punter and holder Hunter Smith behind center.
Yoder motioned across the formation, the ball was snapped, and the crowning sequence of Hunter Smith’s career was on.
Redskins Fake Field Goal, Fake Punt, Touchdown Pass
Smith, who scored an 8-yard touchdown run that same season, took the direct snap and rolled right. After a pump fake that’d make Brett Favre blush, Yoder turned back and uncorked a bomb across the field to fullback Mike Sellers, who was wide open.
In a year when Washington fans booed their team mercilessly en route to a 4-12 record, the crowd erupted as Sellers lunged into the end zone for the second-quarter touchdown pass.
Smith became the first punter in NFL history to run and pass for a touchdown in the same season. He was later named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
“They definitely got the momentum,” Broncos defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday said after the game, “and, from there on, it seems like we never got the momentum back.”
Denver quarterback Kyle Orton, who connected with wide receiver Brandon Marshall on two long touchdowns (40 and 75 yards) in the first quarter, exited the game with a left ankle injury. Backup Chris Simms was ineffective in the second half, and Denver managed only 36 yards of offense after halftime.
With Clinton Portis nursing a concussion, running back Ladell Betts made the most of a rare start, rushing 26 times for 114 yards and the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The Redskins snapped a four-game losing streak to beat the Broncos, 27-17, thanks to two field goals from Shaun Suisham.
Washington’s 2009 NFL season was one to forget, but two fakes on the same special teams play will be remembered as a bright spot of that lost season.