January 11, 2015


New England Patriots beat Baltimore Ravens with 'deception.' Was it legal? (Mark Sappenfield,  JANUARY 11, 2015, CS Monitor)

Over a stretch of three plays in the third quarter, the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick and his coaching staff did something so outlandish that Harbaugh was still trying to piece together exactly what had happened after the Patriots' 35-31 playoff win.

It was "clearly deception," Harbaugh said in his postgame press conference. [...]or a pivotal stretch of the second half, when the Patriots were down by 14 points (for the second time in the game) and staring at a third playoff loss to the Ravens in the past five years, it seemed more that the man on the sidelines - not the man under center - was the one pulling the strings.

Belichick has long been one of pro football's original thinkers, from his daring on fourth downs to his willingness to completely change game plans from one week to the next. But Saturday was a master class from the mind of football's Stephen Hawking, turning a game the Patriots easily could have lost (twice) into another step toward a Super Bowl. (They face the winner of Sunday's Denver Broncos-Indianapolis Colts game in the conference championship next weekend.)

Saturday was Belichickery at its finest, and the Patriots needed every inch of it.

On the third-quarter plays in question, Belichick and his offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, appeared to cheat. That's what Harbaugh and his defense thought, anyway. At first blush, it looked as if the Patriots used six receivers on the plays, which would be illegal. (You're only allowed five.)

But it just looked that way. The fifth lineman was not a thick-necked slab of beef lined up in front of Brady. He was a running back split wide like a receiver. In fact, on the plays, he wasn't doing anything. He had reported to the referees as an ineligible receiver. He was purely a decoy. But since he looked like he was a receiver, the Ravens covered him - and left the tight end lined up like an offensive lineman wide open when he sprinted downfield.

The Patriots did not score on the plays, but down 14 points at the time, the plays helped get the offense into a rhythm. They scored a touchdown later on the drive.

The next drive, Belichick and McDaniels trotted out something perhaps even better: the first-ever professional pass by Julian Edelman.

Posted by at January 11, 2015 8:09 AM

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