The Patriots were accused of using illegal plays during their 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, but the NFL said there was nothing wrong with their sneaky formations.
The complaint came from Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who accused the Patriots of using a “substitution trick” during the divisional playoff game. The Patriots lined up four offensive linemen on a play in the third quarter, declaring one of their receivers ineligible.
The Ravens were confused about their coverage on the play, and afterward Harbaugh was so irate that he ran onto the field to complain, drawing a flag and a 15-yard penalty.
“We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were… What [the Patriots] were doing was they announce the ineligible player and then Tom [Brady] would take them to the line right away and snap the ball before we had a chance to figure out who was lined up where. That was the deception part of it. It was clearly deception.”
“So the officials told me after that they would give us the opportunity to do that, which they probably should’ve done during that series but they didn’t really understand what was happening. That’s why I had to take the penalty, to get their attention so they would understand what was going on because they didn’t understand what was going on… That’s why guys were open, because we didn’t ID where the eligible receivers were at.”
But on Sunday, the NFL said the Patriots were not using illegal plays. The league announced that the formation was legal, and others noted that the Ravens had between seven and 10 seconds after the players declared themselves ineligible.
Tom Brady didn’t take too kindly to the insinuation that the Patriots used illegal plays.
“Maybe those guys gotta study the rulebook and figure it out… We obviously knew what we were doing and we made some pretty important plays. It was a real good weapon for us.”
This is not the first time that some in the league have accused the Patriots of using illegal plays or tactics. In 2007, the team was disciplined for illegally taping defensive play calling from their opponents’ sidelines.