According to ESPN‘s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, the Indianapolis Colts initially tipped off the NFL about the New England Patriots possibly deflating footballs in their Week 11 loss to the Patriots, that saw the Colts fall 42-20:
"“Sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Wednesday that the Colts had concerns about underinflated balls after their regular-season game against the visiting Patriots on Nov. 16.During that game, Colts safety Mike Adams twice intercepted Tom Brady and gave the balls to the Colts’ equipment manager to save — and both times there were concerns about the balls feeling underinflated, sources told Schefter. Those sources said the Colts raised concerns to the league, which was aware of the issue going into this weekend’s AFC title game.”"
Either the NFL took those accusations lightly or seemingly didn’t perform their due diligence, as the New England Patriots again deflated 11 of their 12 footballs in their AFC Championship win against the Indianapolis Colts this past Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the Colts would’ve lost either way; however, cheating is cheating. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, contrary to what a good amount of Patriots’ fans believe. The New England Patriots aren’t above league law and should be held accountable to the same rules as the NFL’s other 31 franchises:
The NFL’s integrity is at stake here, and they must come down hard on the New England Patriots to save crediblity, who are not exactly a 1st time offender either (See: Spygate). Any act that intentionally undermines the fairness of the game should be punished severely. A deflated football gave the Patriots a competitive advantage over the Colts, as well as who knows, countless other teams if performed in the past. It may not be significant, but it’s still an edge that those other teams do not possess.
Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the sidelines during the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
If the NFL wants a fair playing field, then now is the time to make a strong statement. After seeing the league come down hard on its players because of more trivial offenses, most recently threatening to ban Seattle Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch from playing in this past weekend’s NFC Championship game because of wearing gold cleats, why not make a strong punishment to an offense that actually affects the gameplay on the field?
It has to be more than a fine, after all, is a $500K fine to the Patriots’ multibillion-dollar owner Bob Kraft really going to deter further acts of cheating? That’s nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Ditto for their legendary coach Bill Belichick, who is already a multi-millionaire himself. A mid-round draft pick? Please. When the price is a potential trip to the Super Bowl, none of those punishments do the job.
The league needs to make a strong statement that sends the message, “Enough is enough“. Whether that’s the loss of a first round draft pick or barring Belichick from coaching in this year’s Super Bowl, that’s for the league’s powers that be to decide. However, it has to be more than a slap on the wrist, especially since it looks as though the Patriots have been deflating footballs for a while: