Detroit Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp compares fake punts to betting on horses

Detroit Free Press

Here’s a ticket you can take to the window and cash: The Detroit Lions are pretty good at fake punts.

Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp drew an interesting analogy Thursday, comparing his team’s penchant for fake punts to his old high school football coach’s proclivity for gambling on horses, something he said his ex-coach “was a savant at doing.”

“He liked to bet on horses, which was totally foreign for me,” Fipp said. “And I’m like, ‘Dude, aren’t you just throwing your money away doing that?’ But he used to study the racing form and he knew the jockey, and when that jockey’s on this horse, and this horse is trained by this guy, and when it runs on a muddy track it’s one thing, but it’s a dry track it’s another. If it’s turf, if it’s dirt. And he knew the game. He knew horse betting totally different than I did.

“So I think it’s a little bit like that to us. … When we look at a play it’s different. It’s like, ‘Well, what is their stance? What’s their alignment? Are there two guys over there or three? And what is the look of the two guys and the three guys?’ And there’s just so much to it that I think for us, the risk is perceived differently on the inside, maybe, then it is on the outside on some of those things.”

The Lions converted a high-risk fake punt on fourth-and-8 from their own 26-yard line in last week’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, and reaped a huge reward because of it.

Leading by seven points early in the third quarter, C.J. Moore ran for 42 yards on a direct snap to the personal protector and the Lions scored eight plays later to take a two-touchdown lead in a game they went on to win, 34-23.

More:For holdovers from past Detroit Lions regimes, success has never tasted so sweet

Fipp said the fake punt, the Lions’ third successful fake in as many tries this season, was implemented to take advantage of a specific look the Vikings gave from their punt return unit.

With the ball on the left hash, three Vikings players lined up on the left side of the punt rush formation, with two players stacked behind three more rushers on the right side of the line. Moore followed a wall of blockers around right end and down the wide side of the field for the first down.

Fipp acknowledged it took “guts” by Lions coach Dan Campbell to call the fake, but said, “I do think it’s a little bit different when you know all the ins and outs of everything there, so there’s some of that, too, with the play.”

“There’s just a lot of parts to it,” Fipp said. “I don’t really want to talk about all the minute details, but there’s a lot to it. Those guys did an outstanding job of executing it. I think a lot of our belief comes into knowing who’s doing it and who’s executing the play. And we got a lot of confidence in those guys. It ended up working out, obviously, in our favor.”

The Lions have been on a heater when it comes converting fakes under Campbell and Fipp that dates back to last season.

Last year, Moore converted one fake with a 28-yard run against the Los Angeles Rams, and punter Jack Fox was 3 of 4 passing on fakes, with his only incompletion coming on a dropped pass by Godwin Igwebuike. Fox threw a 6-yard pass to convert a fake in Week 4 of this season against the Seattle Seahawks, and Moore had a 13-yard run for another first down on a fake against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8.

“To be honest with you, on that one (against the Vikings) I wasn’t as nervous as some of them,” Fipp said. “We had a lot of confidence in it. Some of it just stems from the look that he had and we thought we’d get. I think I said to you a year ago, some of these can go on and off, so that helps. There’s a good chance you’re not going to run it into something you don’t want to run it into. And so if you are running it, it’s a higher percentage play. So there’s a lot of things that help it and help our confidence in the play.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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