Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 Oct 2017

The Story Behind Chicago's 2-Point Play

The Chicago Bears lost to the Minnesota Vikings 20-17 on Monday Night Football, but all anyone wants to talk about is their two-point conversion play:

Though most of the nation claimed to have never seen anything like this before, Scott Roussel of FootballScoop.com figured that somebody, somewhere in the past century-plus of American football, must have run this play before. And, in fact, somebody did.

That's the 2000 Tampa Buccaneers, with Shaun King taking the snap and handing off to Warrick Dunn, who hands off to Mike Alstott, who pitches it back to King.

Roussel credits then-Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Les Steckel for the design of the play. Jack M. Silverstein of Windy City Gridiron then took things a step further, tracing Steckel's football career back to his playing days at the University of Kansas in the 1960s, when coach Jack Mitchell was running the Split T offense. Silverstein also found that in 1999, the Titans tried a similar play with Frank Wycheck pitching the ball to Steve McNair, but it was unsuccessful. The Titans' OC that year? Les Steckel.

Silverstein spent some time trying to connect dots between Steckel and Dowell Loggains, the Bears' OC who called the conversion on Monday night. It turns out that both worked with Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, though seven seasons apart. Zach Zaidman of CBS 2 in Chicago then went straight for Loggains for the story: when Loggains was a freshman in high school, he saw the Buccaneers play, and he kept it in his back pocket for nearly two decades before calling it in a real live NFL game. Loggains confirmed the whole play was Steckels', and added that he calls it "The Doughnut."

And now you know.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 11 Oct 2017

13 comments, Last at 12 Oct 2017, 2:11pm by PatsFan


by xydux :: Wed, 10/11/2017 - 5:10pm

Interesting piece of journalism. Thanks for sharing this!

by Theo :: Wed, 10/11/2017 - 6:44pm

I sent the clip to a friend.
"Yeah I know that play, the bucs did exactly the same play a few years ago"
His memory is very good - but his awareness of time is off once in a while.

by Theo :: Wed, 10/11/2017 - 6:48pm

Wow. Even the backside pulling guard and the man they leave on an island is the same.

by Hummingbird Cyborg :: Wed, 10/11/2017 - 9:29pm

I did watch that play and I loved it!

I was suddenly shocked because it was a genuine reverse which is rare enough even if some people call end-arounds reverses, this was a genuine reverse, but add in the quarterback option and it's even better.

by PirateFreedom :: Thu, 10/12/2017 - 12:29am

I was actually expecting to hear it called a double reverse

by ChrisS :: Thu, 10/12/2017 - 11:29am

Because calling it that makes the play twice as exciting.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 10/12/2017 - 3:55am

Took me about five viewings to understand how this play evolved when I first saw it. Wouldn't want to be a defense trying to sniff that out. Or a referee officiating it.

But my initial question mark was "Isn't that two forward passes?" as both handoffs go forward. Anyone know what the rules state?

by CBPodge :: Thu, 10/12/2017 - 5:44am

I would say that both handoffs were legit handoffs, not passes. If they'd been muffed, they would have been classed as fumbles with a live ball, not incomplete passes.

The rulebook calls handing the ball "transferring player possession from one teammate to another without passing or kicking it" and that "No player may hand the ball forward except to an eligible receiver who is behind the line of scrimmage.
(b) A muffed handoff (legal or illegal) is a fumble, and the ball remains alive."

So the first two handoffs are legal, because they were to eligible receivers behind the line of scrimmage. The pitch is legal as, although its to an ineligible receiver, it is backwards. If the third one had been a forwards handoff (or pitch) it would have been illegal as the QB isn't an eligible receiver.

by jtr :: Thu, 10/12/2017 - 9:17am

Shotgun QB's are eligible receivers. The QB is only ineligible if he takes a snap under center, because that puts him too close to the line of scrimmage. Also, the NFL rules digest calls QB's under center "T-Formation quarterbacks" which is rather quaint.

by nat :: Thu, 10/12/2017 - 9:20am

...it would have been illegal as the QB isn't an eligible receiver.

I think that's wrong in this case. But, if not, I'd love to be set straight.

From the 2016 rule book:

(Regarding eligible receivers)
(c) Offensive players who are legally at least one yard behind the line at the snap, provided they either have the numbers of eligible players (1-49 and 80-89) or have legally reported to play a position in the backfield.

(Regarding ineligible players)
(e) A player who takes his stance behind center as a T-formation quarterback is not an eligible receiver unless, before the ball is snapped, he legally moves to a position at least one yard behind the line of scrimmage or on the end of the line, and is stationary in that position for at least one second before the snap.

[edit] OK, I was a tiny bit slow on the draw on this. But I'll leave it here with the detailed rules quote.

by ChrisS :: Thu, 10/12/2017 - 11:28am

Glad I'm not the only one who did not follow the play on a first viewing. Initially I thought "that must be the greatest fake hand-off ever, where did he hide the ball?".

by nat :: Thu, 10/12/2017 - 12:08pm

You are far from alone. It took me a few viewings to get the whole thing, too.

by PatsFan :: Thu, 10/12/2017 - 2:11pm

Same here. I spent several viewings trying see where the QB was hiding the ball before I realized what had happened.