The pivotal play wasn't a play at all.
It wasn't supposed to be anything that involved an actual snap and yet, it served its purpose just as well as any physical run or well-designed pass. And for the New Orleans Saints (9-2), it jump-started a 31-3 victory over Denver at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday.
The Saints were facing fourth-and-1 from their own 35-yard line with 1:18 left in the first quarter. In a scoreless game, it wasn't a prime scenario for a gamble, and yet there was New Orleans' offense, still on the field and lining up to go for it in a game that had lacked any offensive sizzle.
Quarterback Taysom Hill lined up in shotgun formation, made the play call and beckoned for the snap.
On one of the times, the inflection of his voice was enough to entice Denver defensive end Dre'Mont Jones to jump across the line in anticipation of a play.
Instead of a big run stop, Jones' jump was a neutral zone infraction. And instead of the Saints likely taking a five-yard penalty as payment for their bluff, they were awarded the five yards that moved the ball to the 40 and gave them a new set of downs.
They used the gift with brutal efficiency. New Orleans ran the ball on 10 consecutive plays – seven of them either up the middle or off right guard – and took the lead on the last of those 10 runs, a 1-yarder by Hill to give the Saints a 7-0 lead with 10:23 left in the second quarter.
It was a sign of things to come in the running game, as the Saints attempted 44 runs and gained 229 yards, with four touchdowns. And it was the non-play that helped New Orleans set the stage for a physically dominating performance.