Marques Colston's very forward pass was one of the odder endings to a football game, and at first glance, one of the dumbest. But the Saints stayed strangely silent on the question of whether Colston was ad-libbing. Now we know: It was a designed play.
Rather then step out of bounds at the Seattle 37 with seven seconds left and at least one shot at the end zone, Colston fired the ball across the field for an attempted long-distance lateral to streaking RB Travaris Cadet. His pass fell well short and about five yards forward, a weak end to a furious comeback attempt. Immediately after the game, Sean Payton was asked about the play. "We'll look at the tape," Payton said. "Next question."
Why let Colston (who didn't talk to the media on Saturday) twist in the wind for two days? Payton has apparently looked at the tape and come clean—it was a called trick play that didn't work out so well.
"We're probably maybe a play early from it, but with no timeouts, we'd kind of seen something on tape, Marques has got a pretty good arm," Payton said. "You know, hindsight, a play where he could have caught it, stepped out and then maybe a Hail Mary to the end zone.
"But it was a play we had put in a week and a half ago, prior to this game, which was a deep throw to Marques and then across the field to Cadet. So, yeah, he wasn't freelancing."
It's pretty clear in hindsight. You can see Cadet hovering around the line of scrimmage, taking off only after Brees releases the ball. The cross-field lateral is one of the older trick plays in the book, though the Seahawks had this one guarded pretty well: Sitting in a prevent look, Byron Maxwell was waiting for Cadet. But that's only in retrospect, and maybe going for broke with time still on the clock—when Seattle might not have been expecting it—was the right thing to do.
(The weirdest part, when it's all done, is the Saints going to a play that was only installed a week prior. Surely there was some trickeration in the New Orleans playbook that they had, you know, practiced?)
All hypotheticals. Had Brees-to-Colston-to-Cadet worked, we're still coming down from the high of one of the greatest playoff endings ever. It didn't, but at least no one can slam Colston for being boneheaded. Just inaccurate.