While the Patriots bask in the glory of their squeaker victory over Seattle in Super Bowl 49, there are those who think that the ‘Deflategate’ scandal was not the real crime.
While the media harped on the idea that the Pats used underinflated footballs to gain an illegal advantage over the Colts in the cold, wet AFC Championship game, casual sports fans were distracted from events that transpired the game before, against the Baltimore Ravens.
Profootballtalk.com features an article (linked below) that greatly deflates the extent of the deflation. An astute observer comments on the real story:
The Illegal 20-Yard Swing in the Pats-Ravens Game
Despite the attention heaped on deflategate, the bigger scandal of the playoffs will end up having been the refs mishandling of the Patriots eligibility-aided drive against the Ravens.
Proper enforcement of the rules would have penalized the Patriots for 5 yards. Add that 5 to the 15 yard penalty that the Ravens took to call attention to the scheme and that’s a 20-yard swing on a scoring drive in a very close game.
No one, including PROFOOTBALLTALK.COM, appears to have held the refs to the standards laid out in the NFL’s 2012 POINTS OF EMPHASIS, which specifically address the situation that occurred in the Patriots-Ravens game. Everyone, including PROFOOTBALLTALK.COM, has taken the refs at their word without much scrutiny. The refs still seem confused about how to handle this situation. If they looked at the 2012 POINTS OF EMPHASIS, the answer is right there.
The cold logic here includes two points and one extrapolation.
1. FACT: It was widely reported that Shane Vereen on at least one play reported his ineligibility just before the snap on the drive.
2. FACT: Players wearing numbers that don’t qualify them for their position must report to the referee “BEFORE ENTERING THE HUDDLE.” And if a player fails to properly report his change in eligibility, “IT WILL RESULT IN A 5-YARD PENALTY FOR ILLEGAL SUBSTITUTION.”
3. EXTRAPOLATION: If the refs had thrown the flag, Harbaugh would not have gotten the unsportsmanlike conduct. That’s the 20-yard swing on a scoring drive.
Here is the portion of the 2012 points of emphasis:
The committee also reviewed the procedures for an offensive player who comes into the game wearing a number that does not qualify him for the position he takes. These players must report to the referee, before entering the huddle. The referee and umpire will then report the same to the defensive team.
This rule prevails whether a player is already in the game or is an entering substitute and whether it is a play from scrimmage, an attempted field goal, or a try after a touchdown. If a player fails to report his change in eligibility, it will result in a 5-yard penalty for illegal substitution.
Clearly no one wants to talk about this. Not the Patriots certainly, not the NFL refs (who are still confused about how to handle this issue) and not the Ravens (who in retrospect should have called a timeout.) But that doesn’t change the fact that if the refs had handled it properly, the outcome might have been different.
*It is still a mystery how anyone thinks underinflation helped the Pats. It appeared that New England would have beaten the hapless Colts if both teams were forced to use bean bags.