The Indianapolis Colts were run over and dominated by the New England Patriots last Sunday. Nothing changes that outcome, the Pats were simply the better team and the Colts season is over.
But there was controversy to be found following the game. It was first reported by Bob Kravitz following the loss that the Patriots might have deflated footballs during the game. We’ve since learned that is true.
According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, 11 of the 12 balls on the Patriots sideline were under-inflated.
The Patriots did something that was a clear violation of the rules and there is no misinterpreting the print this time around. It gave their team a clear, if incredibly minor, advantage last Sunday. In wet conditions, less air pressure in the ball would give a player a better grip.
There has been no official comment from the NFL on the matter. An unnamed source in the NFL told Anderson that members of the league front office were “disappointed … angry … distraught.”
For those who don’t know, the footballs are handled by ball boys who are fielded by each team. The balls each team uses comes from their designated sideline. The NFL has regulations on the proper inflation for footballs and its very specific.
Footballs must weigh between 14 and 15 ounces while being inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch.
The Colts only noticed an issue when D’Qwell Jackson handed the ball to one of the Colts equipment managers following an interception. Its common for players to give a ball to the staff following a big plays (like say Jackson’s first interception in a playoff game).
The issue with the balls made no difference on the field. The Colts were going to lose this game regardless and the possibly deflated balls didn’t prevent them from tackling or covering the Pat’s receivers.
The Patriots cheating and the Colts getting dominated are not mutually exclusive concepts. The Colts are not trying to make excuses for the loss, they are doing something that 30 other teams in the NFL would do as well.
The investigation is still ongoing and there could be a lot of things that happened between the beginning and end of the game. Its possible the balls were not properly inspected and we have yet to determine who is actually guilty of deflating the balls (and on whose orders).
One or two under-inflated balls would be one thing, but finding that all but one ball reeks of institutional cheating. If a ball boy is fired by the Patriots, its more likely because he forgot the deflate that last football.
The fact is, the Patriots have cheated before and now they have done it again. They would hardly be the first ones to cheat and do it a second time, especially when there was a benefit to be had (see: MLB and steroids).
In 2008, the Patriots were convicted of stealing the Jets play-calling signals. Head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000. The Patriots were also hit for $250,000 and, most damaging, lost a first-round draft pick. That incident became famously known as Spygate.
Belichick doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt for this reason alone. Deflating footballs would seem like a minuscule cheat and something that is hard to pull off yet it clearly happened. It would likely be more trouble than its worth but because of the coach and team’s history we’ve discussed it at length.
People around the league have been waiting for the Patriots to trip up and get caught again. Its not unlike IU fans and Kentucky’s coach John Calipari.
The fundamental problem with the Pats is that they cheat when they really don’t need to cheat. They are always near the top of the NFL yet still push the envelope in every way possible.
Belichick is reminiscent of President Richard Nixon. The Watergate scandal was completely unnecessary, yet still sanctioned by Nixon, not unlike Belichick and Spygate (and not just because of the “gate” suffix the media attaches to scandals now).
It is baffling that Belichick continues to cheat (or “gain an edge” as Boston fans will put it) despite being a perennial Super Bowl contender. The Patriots have had a run of success in the past 15 years that most franchises would kill for, yet still they feel the need to cheat the league.
Institutional cheating like this damages the integrity of the game in more ways than HGH or marijuana ever could. The heavy fines and loss of draft picks were clearly not enough to prevent Belichick and the Patriots from cheating again. The league needs to come down harder and let everyone know that any form of cheating is completely unacceptable.
This begs the question, how many times have the Patriots cheated and not been caught?