Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker hadn’t run on a trick play since his rookie year, but he put everything he had behind a first down effort. Unfortunately, the officials in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome didn’t think Hekker picked up the first, much the bewilderment of many.
There were several entertaining Week 9 games, with many fans looking forward to the Sunday Night Football clash between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. However, the Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans Saints game may have been the best of the best, as it pit two explosive offenses and two of the NFC’s Super Bowl contenders against each other in a hyped-up environment.
Head coaches Sean Payton and Sean McVay are renowned for their creativity, and both men knew that they’d have to pull every trick out of the big in order to grind out a huge victory. McVay dialed up one of those plays in the first half of the game, calling for a fake field goal run at the opponents 16 early in the second quarter.
At the time, both teams were tied 14-14, and given how many points had been scored by both offenses, McVay knew that field goals weren’t going to cut it in this shootout-style game. The Saints were playing perfect football through the air on each drive, so a field goal would essentially be a loss of four points against Drew Brees, who was simply dicing through the Rams defense.
So instead of taking three easy points, McVay called for punter/holder Johnny Hekker to take the snap and run on 4th-and-4. As can be seen here, Hekker put his heart and soul into this run, representing the punter position as well as he possibly could.
Sadly, the officials determined that Hekker didn’t pick up enough yardage before being forced out of bounds, ruling it a turnover on downs for the Rams. It was a deflating moments for the Rams, who nearly put themselves in a position to pick up seven points on the drive behind Hekker’s gutsy run after a well thought-out gamble from McVay.
Even FOX Sports Rules Analyst Mike Pereira commented that Hekker should have been awarded the first down. While the Rams had about three quarters after the call to make up for the lost points, a loss could cause fans to refer back to this moment as a critical mistake from the officials.