WASHINGTON — Redskins punter Tress Way shocked the Giants defense — and everybody watching — with a successful fake punt in the third quarter of Sunday’s 29-27 victory.
The Redskins broke out the gadgetry on 4th-and-12 from their own 48-yard line while trailing 24-23 with three minutes and 17 seconds remaining in the third. Quinton Dunbar — who notably converted to defensive back from wide receiver last season — lined up on the outside, on the left, against Giants defensive back Trevin Wade.
Way sold the fake by allowing a full two seconds for the play to fully develop, only breaking character at the last possible second to look up and make the throw, as Giants defenders were zeroing in on him to black the *punt*.
Wade, who recognized the fake almost immediately as Dunbar employed a juke move off the line, followed Dunbar the entire way on the play, tugging on his jersey as is allowed on punts, before Dunbar came down with the pass for a 31-yard completion and a first down to extend the drive.
The Redskins went on to score, with Dustin Hopkins converting a 25-yard field goal to take a 26-24 lead.
“I’m still getting texts from my friends and this and that and whatnot,” Way said. “And I’m just going, ‘Man. That actually happened.’ Like, the NFL, I threw a pass. Like are you frickin’ kidding me? And so whenever coach comes up and tells me… the name of the play was ‘Puma.'”
Way continued: “He goes, ‘Hey. We got Puma. It’s going on.’ And I’m like, ‘Let’s frickin’ rage, man. Let’s do it. Who cares?'”
“And so I get out there and, honestly, guys, I’m not trying to sound cool,” he said. “I thought I was going to be freaking out and nervous; I felt okay out there. I was like, alright, man. Let’s do this.”
“I look out, it’s one-on-one, Q on that guy,” he said of Dunbar’s matchup with Wade. “We had watched a lot of film on him. We knew he was gonna let him go a little bit. And the worst part was having to keep my head down without looking at the rush. That is a rush, man. You get out there and you’ve got these dudes coming after you and you’re not looking, looking, and then look up and launch one? Oh man. It was awesome.”
“So now, what a lot of people don’t realize is when we’re doing our little walk-throughs and this and that, you know, Nick snaps it back to me. We play a little catch,” Way explained. “Well, then Nick takes off for a route and I throw it to him 30, 40, 50 yards down field — whatever route that Nick picks for that particular play.
“So [special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica] comes up to me, and the assistant special teams coaches are there, and they say, ‘Tress, can you throw the ball?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah. I played some ball growing up. I’ve got a little bit of an arm.’ They go, ‘Well, if we fake, do you want to run or do you want to pass?’ I go, ‘Are you kidding me? Let me throw it.’ I go, ‘We’ve got the best athletes in the world on the field. I’m not going to get hit by one of those dudes. Let me try and throw it and see what we can make happen there.'”
“This conversation took place last year whenever I started throwing the ball around a little bit,” he clarified. “But this week we practiced it three times and, believe it or not, I actually threw it three different ways.
“The first time I lobbed it too much, is what they said; then the second time, I threw it on the back shoulder, which I was flirting with the sideline; and then the live practice run Friday, I hit it way too much on a bullet, but Q caught it. He made a great play, but it was a little risky, you know, like if he had good coverage on him, it’d be tough, and so I can confidently say that my best throw out of all the reps came on game day.”
On if there was a plan of some sort in place to abort the fake, Way said, “So David Bruton, our PP on the punt team, he had a chance to call it off. As long as Dunbar over there was one-on-one with that guy, then it was on.”
“I was talking with my mom and dad,” he said. “They have these huge watch parties in the garage, and they were saying that my uncle started yelling at the TV. He was like, ‘What’s he doing? What’s he doing,” because I was taking so long, and then my mom said my dad from the back of the garage just yelled, ‘IT’S A FAKE!!!!” So the whole garage just started freaking out.”
Fans have taken a liking to Puma since the interview aired.
Amazingly, the fake punt — which Way explains was heavily dependent on proper field position — almost never happened.
“We crossed the 50-yard line and it had to be a pooch punt,” he said. “It had to be a point where I was trying to pin them deep, where 98 percent of them are fair-catches, because the corner on the left side over there, he would always let the guy go. All the way dating back to last year and other teams that he played for, he would let the guy just kind of go down, because it always ends up in a fair catch.
“So we get up there and we’re in plus-territory, I think the ball was on maybe the 42- or 43-yard line, and it was 3rd-and-4 or 3rd-and-5. Well then Kirk gets sacked, so now the ball comes all the way back. Well we had talked about for sure always doing it in the plus-territory, because it’s a shorter throw, this and that. Well I look up, its 4th-and-12, and Ben gives me that look and he goes, ‘It’s on. We’re doing it.’ And I was like, ‘Well let’s do it, man.’ And so we went out there and we ran it and got the first down.”
Way has never played quarterback, mostly only playing baseball growing up, but says he’s thrown passes in practice “up to about 62” yards. In fact, strong arms apparently run in the family.
“I played infield my whole life,” he said. “My little brother, I mean he’s a 6-11 lefty in the Royals organization that throws 93, 95 miles an hour. I just was an infielder that was pretty scrappy, would throw the ball around and always had a good arm, nothing special, but I was just pumped to throw the ball. Dude. Are you kidding me? That was such a fun play! That was awesome.”