According to ESPN, league sources have indicated that 11 of the New England Patriots’ 12 gameballs were deflated significantly below the NFL’s league requirements in their AFC Championship win against the Indianapolis Colts.
"“We are not commenting at this time,” said Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of communications."
It woudn’t have changed the outcome, as the New England Patriots won handedly in a 45-7 blowout. However, the Patriots like the NFL’s other 31 franchises aren’t above league rule. It would be one thing if it were just a few footballs that were under-inflated, but 11 of 12 footballs (92%) seems like they intentionally deflated them, which is cheating. In the rainy conditions that were played on Sunday night, it would give the Patriots a competitive advantage both throwing and catching the football for grip purposes.
No one’s reasonably saying the game should be re-played or the Patriots should forfeit their win; however, they should be fairly punished for violating league requirements. It doesn’t matter if they have Tom Brady or Bill Belichick or whether they would’ve won regardless, that’s besides the point. The Patriots are not above league rule and are required to play by the rules just like every other NFL franchise.
Especially given the recent “Spygate” debacle, the NFL needs to make a statement. The Patriots clearly aren’t afraid of league punishment and any slap on the wrist the NFL may impose on them with a lost draft pick.
What is interesting to know will be how the Patriots in fact were able to play with under-inflated footballs:
"“Part of the investigation that still needs further vetting is how the 11 footballs became underinflated.The game balls provided to each team for preparation were required to be inspected and approved by referee Walt Anderson two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff, then returned to a ball attendant.No alteration of footballs is allowed once they are approved, under league rules and regulations.”"
Per ESPN, one league source said the NFL is “disappointed, angry, and distraught”, and quite frankly, rightfully so. Any perpetrator that commits an act that undermines the integrity of the game should be severely punished, especially if they aren’t a first time offender.
Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports