catch (one) napping

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catch (one) napping

To exploit or capitalize on one's inattention (or, sometimes, literal sleep). We were able to sneak into the building because we caught the security guard napping. I scored a goal after I caught their defenseman napping.
See also: catch, nap

catch someone napping

 and catch someone off balance; catch someone up short
to come upon someone who is unprepared; to surprise someone. (See also asleep at the switch.) The enemy soldiers caught our army napping. The thieves caught the security guard napping. I didn't expect you so soon. You caught me off balance. The teacher asked a trick question and caught me up short. The robbers caught Ann off balance and stole her purse.
See also: catch, nap

catch napping

Surprise, take unawares. This term is often used in the passive, as in The United States was really caught napping the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. It originated in the mid-1500s as to be taken napping. Also see under off guard.
See also: catch, nap

catch someone napping

(of an action or event) find someone off guard and unprepared to respond. informal
See also: catch, nap, someone

catch somebody ˈnapping

(informal) find somebody not prepared or not paying attention, and perhaps gain an advantage over them as a result: Chelsea’s defence was caught napping in the final moments of the game when Jones scored his second goal for Liverpool.
Nap means ‘sleep’, usually for a short time and especially during the day.
See also: catch, nap, somebody
References in classic literature ?
Labour caught us napping and struck at our weakest place, the stomach.
I remember George Smith playing particularly well, their forwards got into us early and caught us napping.
They just gave it a lash, effectively, and caught us napping at the end.
The late goal caught us napping while the first goal was a comedy of errors.
Carlisle boss Graham Kavanagh added: "I'm afraid we switched off and the late goal caught us napping.
Cumbrians boss Graham Kavanagh added: "We switched off and the late goal caught us napping.
We needed just a draw to qualify, but that header by Syed Bechir caught us napping.
Manchester caught us napping during the second period but I thought in the first and third periods we were a match for them, if not better in places.
They caught us napping and the momentum shifted on their side and they started making shots and getting confident, and that was it.
Aitchison said: ``They caught us napping at home last season when we were still finding our feet.
Cardiff coach Gareth Rein said: Llanelli caught us napping a bit,but I am proud of the way the players fought back, and while they lost, it was a fantastic experience for all of them.
Tynedale are difficult to play against, they never give up, and they caught us napping a couple of times in the first half, but I thought our lads responded well to going behind.
You've got your goal there from us switching off a bit from a quickly taken free-kick which has caught us napping with one of our inexperienced players, Hopefully he will learn from that situation.
Little things have caught us napping at times and maybe a little inexperience at this level has cost us, but I am more than confident we can bounce straight back.
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