The New England Patriots appeared to have yet another cheating scandal on their hands this week, but this one may not be all that it seems.
In the days after the team’s win over the Dallas Cowboys, a viral video circulated appearing to show the sideline crew changing the spot of the first-down marker to make it more difficult for the Cowboys to convert. The video — which was shared on Twitter by Dallas radio host RJ Choppy, and was titled “Cheating Patriots 2019” — showed officials moving the marker back one yard, from the Patriots’ 5-yard-line to the 4-yard-line, making what was a 3rd and 6 into what ended up being a 3rd and 7.
The Cowboys did not come close to converting the first down and ended up kicking a field goal, so the spot didn’t matter, but the video still gained some big attention from many football fans who believe the Patriots seem to get extra help from referees. As Choppy noted, many fans seemed to notice the marker discrepancy at the time, but the video pointed out the moment that the marker was actually moved forward — an event which was more difficult to see during the live broadcast.
It turned out there was a more mundane explanation, however. As Yahoo Sports noted, the sideline crew moved the first down marker forward because it had originally been spotted incorrectly. The report noted that there was a roughing the passer penalty on the Patriots on the 29-yard-line, so the ball should have been moved forward to the 15, but referees spotted it wrong initially.
“Except the ball wasn’t spotted at the 14-yard line for first down. It was at the 15, for whatever reason. And presumably, the chain gang was off by a yard too, and fixed it after Dallas’ first-down play,” the report noted.
“No, officials weren’t just randomly moving the first-down marker in the middle of a series of downs to help the Patriots.”
Still, the incident was tough to swallow for fans of other teams who have seen the Patriots stay atop the NFL for nearly two decades. The team has also fallen into a series of cheating controversies during that time, from “SpyGate” to “DeflateGate.” This scandal would have been the work of the league officials rather than the Patriots, but the anger over the video was still very real.
— RJ Choppy (@rjchoppy) November 27, 2019
So while the anti-Patriots contingent of NFL fans may be sore over the incident, it appears there will be no major fine for the Patriots, and no suspension for Tom Brady.