UPDATE: Within half an hour of the release of this blog, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls were under inflated by 2 psi. This report is a total game-changer, and while the Patriots say they will comply fully with the NFL’s investigation, it doesn’t exactly look great for them. Since it is nearly all the balls that have been found to be deflated, it seems extremely likely that ball-deflating did occur, although as always the Patriots are innocent until proven guilty, as we still do not know how these footballs came to be deflated. This is a great example of how a single piece of information can turn a situation on its head. While I stand by my point that the Patriots would’ve won the game regardless, this does mean that there could be upcoming punishment facing the Patriots. This means that for the third time this postseason, the result of a game is highly disputed, and now the Patriots will be playing the role of the bad guy in the upcoming Super Bowl.
There will be more to come, as I will continue giving my opinions as the NFL’s investigation proceeds and we come to know how these footballs were deflated.
There was a brief period of time following the NFL conference championship games when people were actually talking about the games. All the talk was about how the Packers managed the fourth quarter horribly and did just about everything possible to let the Seahawks back in the game, basically begging to go down in flames. Then there was the news of Richard Sherman’s injury, how the Patriots demolished the Colts, how the Seahawks would be looking to be the first team in back-to-back years to win the Super Bowl since the Patriots ten years ago, and how Tom Brady would be looking for his NFL record-tying fourth Super Bowl victory in his record sixth start.
But like I said, all of this lasted for only a few hours until the first reports came out of an NFL investigation, looking into whether or not the New England Patriots intentionally deflated game balls in order to gain an unfair advantage over the Colts. Upon seeing this for the first time, I immediately cringed and thought to myself, “great, all we need is another Patriots controversy”. And then I actually looked specifically at the allegations and the circumstances surrounding it, and realized this: deflate-gate (which, is actually a pretty awesome scandal name), is a huge joke. So now, I am going to explain why this supposed cheating scandal a) had no effect on the game, b) would have been extremely difficult to accomplish, and c) is absolutely incapable of being proven.
First off, let’s go over basic procedure for the inflation and monitoring of footballs. On gameday, each team provides 24 footballs to the referees roughly two hours prior to the start of the game, where the referees inspect each ball. Every football must have an air pressure of between 12.5 and 13.5 psi, as well as a weight of between 14 and 15 ounces. Additionally, the teams may “break in” the footballs to suit each individual quarterback’s preferences, such as trying to smooth the surface of the ball. This is legal as long as the ball’s shape remains about the same. Following this, each team’s specific balls are returned to the team to be rotated throughout the game. The Colts claim that after the balls had been inspected by the referees, an equipment manager let out some of the air from at least one Patriot football, making it an illegal ball. The advantage in using a lighter ball is that in inclement weather, the ball is easier to grip, throw, and catch, which would seem to give the Patriots an advantage.
However, it would give anything remotely similar to an advantage that would have made the game a lot closer than it was. The Colts lost the game 45-7, and as ESPN’s Ron Jaworski put it, the Patriots could’ve won the game using a Frisbee. They were just that dominant, basically throughout the course of the game. The Patriots wreaked havoc in the run game with running back LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns. While a lighter ball would’ve made the ball easier to throw and catch, it shouldn’t have any effect on the running game. It also should have no effect on the Colts offense. Since the Colts used separate balls from the Patriots (each team’s balls are marked with their team name), the Colts have no excuse for only managing to score seven points in the game. They couldn’t get anything accomplished on that side of the ball and Andrew Luck played the worst game of his career. Additionally, the incident where the Colts reported that the game ball the Patriots were using felt light was late in the second quarter. That ball wasn’t used in the second half, and in that half the Patriots blew the game out of the water, outscoring the Colts 28-0.
Let’s talk how about the Colts became suspicious of the Patriots. After a Tom Brady interception late in the second quarter, Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (the interceptor) thought that the ball felt a little light. That’s it. The expert insight on the air pressure of the football comes from a linebacker, who rarely is the one touching the football. Why would Jackson of all people be able to tell the slight difference between a legal and illegal ball? Sounds a little fishy to me. Especially since before every play, the referees have to touch the ball to place it at the line of scrimmage. Usually two referees hold the ball between plays, and these guys actually know what the balls should feel like and are the ones who inspected the balls. So naturally, one would think they would notice if a ball felt light, and would check the air pressure or throw the ball out altogether (something referees actually do frequently when for whatever reason they believe a ball is not in ideal playing condition).
So how would the Patriots be able to get away with this? The referees check the balls before the game and before every play, so they would probably be able to spot any funny business. Additionally, why would the Patriots even need to deflate their balls? They were favorites to win the game, had home field advantage on their side, and from only the first few minutes of the game it seemed obvious that it was going to be the Patriots’ day and that there would be nothing stopping them. Not to mention how extremely risky it would be if they got caught. The Patriots are already notorious for spy-gate, and their image would get even worse if they were to get caught up in another scandal (too late). Additionally, they would lose draft picks, and the Tom Brady/Belichick-era Patriots have been some of the most successful teams ever due largely in part for their ability to dominate the draft, always making smart trades and choosing the right players.
The Patriots basically can’t get caught here, due to the actions taken directly after the ball in question was intercepted. D’Qwell Jackson took the ball to the Colts sideline and explained that he thought the ball was light first to the equipment manager of the Colts, who then told coach Chuck Pagano, who then told the general manager, who then told the head referee about the ball situation. In all the time required to do this, who’s not to say the Colts couldn’t have taken air out of the ball? I’m no conspiracy theorist, but the possibility definitely seems to be there, especially considering a desperate team losing might try to use some underhanded tactics to keep their season alive. Essentially, if no one from the Patriots admits to being involved with the deflating of footballs, and there is no video evidence of any such acts being performed, there is absolutely no way the Patriots can be considered guilty, and since I highly doubt a Patriot would spill the beans and there has been no talk of any evidence suggesting the Patriots did anything, in my mind they’re in the clear.
The dumbest part about this is that I don’t even think the referees checked the air pressure of the ball in question. At least no information of that nature has been released yet, and there’s the basis for this entire argument right there. We can’t trust D’Qwell Jackson’s perception of what is or isn’t a light ball, we need numbers. I have no idea why no one seems to even know the air pressure of that ball because the balls should’ve been rechecked at halftime if there was any suspicion of deflated balls.
At the end of the day, there is absolutely NO story here, whatsoever, period. The media, as usual, has blown something completely out of proportion, when there is nothing to suggest anything wrong had been done.
What do I think actually happened? It’s pretty simple. The ball the Patriots were using was probably a little light. Obviously, in these conditions the Patriots wanted to use as light a ball as possible, so they probably inflated their balls to the minimum 12.5 psi. Then in the cold weather, the pressure of the ball probably reduced slightly, making it just a tad under 12.5 psi. This isn’t a huge deal, and isn’t really detectable by referees. However, to D’Qwell Jackson, the ball may have felt a little on the light side because in good conditions, the ball is probably closer to 13.5 psi. He may have noticed a slight difference, and decided to tell people about it, knowing that with the Patriots previous allegations of cheating, he might be able to get the Patriots in some kind of trouble.
The only reason any of this ever happens is because of the Patriots’ notorious spy-gate scandal, which even to this day some fans are reluctant to leave in the past. People pounce on the bad reputation of Coach Belichick and always try to make something out of nothing, and in this case trying to fabricate a huge scandal when there isn’t any evidence to support it.
So there you have it. The deflate-gate scandal is nothing but a farce, intended to stir up trouble where it isn’t necessary, and until I hear anything that points otherwise, the whole situation is absolutely meaningless. Feel free to move on with your lives, and to all the conspiracy theorists and Patriots haters, try again next time, because God knows you will.