The New England Patriots became the first team ever to erase two separate 14-point deficits to come back and win a playoff game, when they eliminated the Baltimore Ravens from the AFC postseason Saturday in Foxboro. But they used a few trick plays to help them do it — plays that drew an angry response from Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
Patriots future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, in his post-game press conference, had some sharp words for the Ravens and Harbaugh, when asked to respond to their allegations that the plays were “clear deception.”
“Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out,” Brady said on Saturday. “We obviously knew what we were doing and we made some pretty important plays.”
In a Boston radio interview Monday, Brady walked back his criticism of Harbaugh — but not his position that the trick plays were simply “part of football.”
Basically, on several plays in the third quarter of Saturday’s game, New England put only four offensive linemen on the field instead of the usual five. At the same time, they placed a receiver on the offensive line, but had him declared ineligible to catch the ball downfield.
The purpose of the play is to confuse the opposition into failing to properly cover all the eligible receivers. Apparently it worked, because Harbaugh complained so vehemently during the game that refs slapped him with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
After that game, Harbaugh accused the Patriots of “deception,” and claimed that the play had never been used before by anyone.
“Let me say first that I have a lot of respect for (Harbaugh) as a coach and obviously that team is one of the toughest we’ve faced,” Brady said on Monday, striking a more conciliatory tone. “It was a play that we liked and we thought would work. We had a couple of versions of it. It’s kind of an alert play for our team, and we made three important plays on it. They all contributed to winning, and I’m sure he was always trying to figure out what to do. That’s what it looked like to me.”
Brady went on to say that the plays did not work automatically, but still required the Patriots to execute them properly.
The NFL on Sunday announced that the plays were indeed legal. The New England Patriots now advance to the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in Foxboro. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.