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Kliff Kingsbury Keeps Tricks Up His Sleeve

Cardinals coach comfortable with high-risk, high-reward calls

TE Charles Clay picked up 47 yards on a flea-flicker against the Saints.
TE Charles Clay picked up 47 yards on a flea-flicker against the Saints.

The Texans took a big gamble in the second quarter of their AFC Divisional round loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, calling a fake punt on fourth-and-4 from their 31.

Justin Reid was stopped short on a nice play by Kansas City safety Daniel Sorensen, and thus, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien was ridiculed for the call.

Such is life with trick plays, where both the risk and reward is higher than normal. For that reason, some coaches mostly stay away from them, but that was not the case for Kliff Kingsbury in 2019.

The Cardinals ran 35 trick plays in 2019, which was tied for second-most in the NFL behind only the Rams, per Pro Football Focus. The Cardinals executed well on them, averaging 6.9 yards per play, compared to 5.5 yards per play overall. Their expected points added per play of 0.446 on those calls was seventh-best in the NFL, per PFF.

There were several memorable ones, including the flea-flicker against the Saints, the Pharoh Cooper throw back to Kyler Murray in Seattle, and a pair of successful fake punts.

Trick plays are part of Kingsbury's philosophy and seem unlikely to go away.

"You've got to keep people off-balance," he said in October when discussing the flea-flicker in New Orleans. "You've got to keep them guessing. And the players enjoy it as well. Any time you put something fresh and have a fun name, the players get a kick out of it."