There were a few funny, head-smacking moments during the Indianapolis Colts‘ Sunday night season opener, but one much derided moment from early in the fourth quarter needs to be defended.
Griff Whalen caught a punt around the 10-yard line and ran it all the way to the end zone for seemingly no reason at all. His knee was down. He probably stepped out of bounds along the way, but he kept on chugging even though he must have felt his knee touch the turf, or must have at least had some inclination that the play was going to be called back.
People make fun of the media for always reminding the world that Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard, but I’m not going to let that keep me from typing the word Stanford every time I get the chance. Yes, Griff went to Stanford. He isn’t stupid. Even though many on Twitter and Facebook LOLed, he didn’t think he’d run back a 90-yard touchdown. He played hard until he was sure he’d heard a whistle in a very loud stadium, and the officials rightly let things play out.
Some pundits slammed Whalen, saying it was a lot of running around and wasted energy for nothing, but I disagree. Whalen has been a part of this team for awhile now, and he understands that a little momentum can go a long way. Maybe he thought there was a tiny chance that he might get away with something, but beyond that, his demonstration of heart and hustle was a solid spark plug move.
In the back of his mind, he had to know that his “running around” would send a shot of adrenaline through his offensive teammates preparing to enter the game. It had to bring a renewed sense of focus, a reminder that they’d been in similar situations before. If the offense had fed off of his heart and hustle on that specific set of downs instead of stalling out, then they probably would have escaped with a win.
In the world of sports, fortune usually favors the bold. When a basketball player gets called for goaltending while trying to block a shot, it’s hard to be too angry with him. When a player keeps running in a loud stadium where it could be easy to mistake a whistle, it’s hard to fault him either.