Deflategate: NFL Reportedly Finds 11 Out Of 12 Patriots Balls To Be Underinflated [Updated]

200px-NFLgameball511px-Tom_Brady_2011For many NFL fans, the Patriots are like the “Cobra Kai” team from Karate Kid and coach Bill Belichick could well be sensei, John Kreese, screaming “sweep the leg” at NFL games to Tom Brady. That image was reaffirmed this week with the reported finding that the Patriots, again, cheated in the game against the Indianapolis Colts to secure a position in the Superbowl. The NFL has reportedly claimed that the Patriots under inflated 11 out of 12 balls in clear violation of NFL rules to give Brady and his receivers an edge. If there was intentional deflation, it warrants punishment since the team is responsible under the rules. However, there is an even more serious question of intentional deception, particularly after the deflation was noticed in the course of the game. The question is whether Belichick and Brady were aware of the violations, particularly after Brady called the accusations “ridiculous.” If the Colts and the refs immediately could tell the difference, it is hard to believe that Brady could not. After all, it was Brady who once said that he preferred under-inflated balls.

The Patriots have reportedly received a letter with the initial findings that 11 of 12 games used by the Patriots were under-inflated. Since the balls are checked at the beginning of the game and virtually all of the balls showed under inflation (it is intriguing to think whether the last ball was kept fully inflated in case of an inspection), it is hard to argue that this is a weird coincidence. All balls must be inflated to a range of 12½ to 13½ pounds. Each team provides game officials with 12 footballs before the game and the inspecting ref places a special marking on each ball that passes inspection. The respective team is then given back the balls.

What appears clear is that such deflation is not accidental. The New York Times includes a quote from Kevin Murphy, who runs the American football division at Wilson that such deflation could not be the result of colder weather or spiking the ball. Of course, when 11 out of 12 balls show the deflation you are even less likely to believe such defenses. Belichick is viewed by many as something of a recidivist on rule violations with what has been described (charitably) as a “checkered” history. Likewise, if Brady was aware of the deflation, I believe that he should also be suspended as much for his later denials of knowledge (and calling the allegations ridiculous). There has been be some sanction for dishonesty not only in such acts but their aftermath if we are to deter such conduct and assure fans that these games are played fairly. As often discussed in criminal law and torts, deterrence is accomplished through the relative adjustments between detection rates and sanctions. The lower the detection rate, the higher sanctions must be to achieve deterrence.

646px-Bill_Belichick_8-28-09_Patriots-vs-RedskinsThe question is what to do about “deflategate.” No one is seriously thinking of negating the win since the Patriots crushed the Colts and it was not due to under-inflation unless that is a reference to the Colts offensive line. Indeed, even a Colts Cornerback appears to agree with that assessment. However, the Patriots have been regularly accused of wrongdoing and there is a serious question about a culture of dishonesty under Belichick. In 2007, Belichick was fined $500,000 and his team lost a first-round draft pick after determining the team had spied on an opponent’s signals. It was amazing that he was not suspended for the violation, but many will now argue that the team did not get the message (or that it got the message that it could treat violations of a cost of doing business). One possible sanction is to suspend Belichick or other coaches from the Superbowl if they knew or should have known about the deflation.

Under the rules, the organization could be fined $25,000. Even if you multiply that by the balls, it would still only be $275,000 — a small fine for giving Brady his preferred under-inflated balls. The most serious penalty could be the loss again of a draft pick, which would seem more than justified in this circumstance. However, since the team denied any knowledge of under-inflation with players like Brady mocking the notion, there is a serious question of dishonesty and unsportsmanship conduct in the aftermath as well as the game. In the real world, lying to investigators is treated as itself a separate crime as under 18 U.S.C. 10001. This is obviously not a criminal investigation but the NFL at least claims to hold players and coaches to higher standards than just avoiding criminal acts.

The under-inflation of the balls would have been tempting in the rainy game and the obvious difference was immediately noted by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson when he intercepted Tom Brady late in the second quarter.

The Patriots were already under fire by the Ravens coach and others for what John Harbaugh called “deceptive practices” in its game with his team (notably, the Ravens also raised concerns in the game over what they thought were under-inflated balls). I was less convinced of the merits of that allegation. This however is different.

To me, this is a serious violation of the code that governs all sporting events. As many on this blog know, I am an avid football fan. I enjoy the game even when the Bears are not playing, which for the playoffs has meant most of the time in the last ten years. However, this type of conduct degrades the entire game and creates a suspicion that teams like the Patriots are using shady means to gain an advantage, even when they have no real need to do so against an inferior team. It undermines the integrity of the game and, for a team that was made infamous by past violations, it suggests a culture of indifference at best and dishonesty at worst. The question in my view is not the under inflation but the knowledge of the coaches and players. If there was knowledge, there should be serious consideration given to suspension and certainly a draft pick loss.

What do you think?

114 thoughts on “Deflategate: NFL Reportedly Finds 11 Out Of 12 Patriots Balls To Be Underinflated [Updated]”

  1. In a playoff game, who pays attention? Running down the field thinking “boy you are losing weight!” A receiver touches the ball in the end zone, TD, drops it and thinks he couldn’t have done that if it had been heavier.

    Since this started because somebody on another team told a Colt player about under inflated balls. Did he tell his coach? Did he tell the officials, as he is supposed to? Nooooooo.

  2. I read that the temperature was 51 at kickoff and 50 at halftime. The balls were regulation 2 hours before kickoff, which is 12.5-13.5 PSI. At halftime, 11 of them were 10.5 PSI. By your reasoning, they would be down to 8.5 PSI by the end of the game, and they wouldn’t even be able to play with such deflated balls. And that’s if the temperature dropped a whopping one more degree down to 49.

    You should tell it to the Green Bay Packers. You should alert the Canadian Football League and let them know how crazy they are that they think their footballs don’t deflate to nothing during the course of a game.

    “None is so blind as he who will not see.”

    1. Okie – I am just saying that there is no way the Pats could have done anything to the balls. That is why we need a scientific commission. I can tell you that from my high school physics class that cold with cause the psi to lower in the football as the temperature lowers, but I cannot tell you how much or what the formula is. Besides, they have changed the composition of footballs from the time I was in high school. 🙂

      I have yet to hear what the changes were on the other team, if any, and why the official on the sidelines lost track of the balls on all games the Pats have played all year.

      As I have said, if they inflated to the minimum, which is allowed and they balled deflated on their own, that is not the fault of the Pats. Did the Pats take advantage of that, yes. Did the league allow it, yes. Could the opponents have done the same, yes.

      BTW, the Pats should be the most intercepted team since the balls are underinflated making it easier to intercept their passes.

  3. Paul,

    You better tell that to soccer teams and volleyball teams and rugby teams and outdoor basketball players and everybody else who plays outdoors with a ball.

    Then, you better explain the two New England footballs that were intercepted by the Colts in the regular season game in a dome stadium.

    Nice try, but there is no way the weather will deflate a football — much less 11 of them — within a few hours. It wouldn’t even happen in few weeks. We’re talking the best equipment money can buy.

    Don’t delude yourself. The Patriots cheat.

    1. Okie – simple physics tells you that lowering the temperature changes the psi. It happens in your tires when it get colder. It is not going to completely deflate the tire and as I have said before, I am only following this kerfuffle on here, so no one has listed the starting psi and the ending psi for both teams plus the kicking balls. And they have not included the temperature at the start of the game and the temperature at the end of the game. All of those are things that need to be considered. And I forgot the wind chill factor.

      I have suggested the formulation of a scientific commission to investigate this.

  4. As a follow up, the fumble analysis was done by Sharp Football Analysis. New England’s success in not fumbling compared to other teams cannot be explained by random luck. The odds are 16,000 to 1 against it being random luck.

    This means something else is going on. Deflated footballs?

  5. I’ll tell you why it was 11 of 12 balls and not all 12. The kickers use special balls that are fully controlled by the officials for kicking field goals, extra points, and kickoffs. Those balls are shipped directly from the manufacturer to the officials before each game, and neither team gets to touch them.

    But the kickers have to warm up and practice on the sideline. They want balls that are inflated to the same specs as the actual balls they will use when they kick in the game. So, you keep 1 ball at the kicking specs for the kicker to practice with on the sideline, and the other 11 are deflated to gain an advantage for the QB, receivers, and backs.

    The fact that it was 11 of 12 and not all 12 is even more damning evidence that it was done on purpose. (It was premeditated; it was cheating.)

    And there is absolutely no way that a linebacker for the opposing team can immediately figure out there is something wrong with the football, but the quarterback, receivers, running backs, and even the center have no idea. No possible way. End of debate.

    New England cheated, and we will never know how it affected the game. Just a couple of third down throws that were incomplete instead of complete, or a fumble that didn’t happen when it might have with a regulation ball, and the game could have been much different.

    Furthermore, someone did an analysis of teams that fumble the least. New England has BY FAR the fewest fumbles over the past 10 years. When compared only to other outdoor teams (since indoor teams fumble less than outdoor teams), it is not even close. They are #1 by a WIDE margin. This could be explained by under-inflated balls. Maybe they have been cheating for at least 10 years.

    1. Okie – let’s say the Pats inflate their balls to the league minimum and they are okayed by the officials. Since they are an outside team, as the game progresses, the ball will get gradually smaller, depending on the drop in temperature and the altitude.

      Nothing the Pats have done is illegal. It may give them an advantage for their QB, who likes a smaller ball, but that is all. If the other team wants to maintain their advantage for a QB that likes a bigger ball then they need to fill the ball to the maximum psi before the game.

  6. I have still not read, heard, or seen any detailed comment by the referee, umpire, and other game officials…e.g., how did those balls get handled by them during the game and not get noticed, of if modified before hand, how did the umpire not notice it when securing the balls pre-game? Or when handling them during the game…e.g., did they toss the balls out of play when they noticed odd features? Or did they wait? This post-facto determination is weird, IMO. Or have I missed something? Tell me, I’ll listen…and know in advance that I am not a fan of NCAA Div 1 football nor the NFL version….e.g., I have no skin in the game, so to speak.

  7. The Patriots didn’t have to cheat with deflated balls. They would have won wirh a beach ball.n they are just narural born good platers when it cones to teams. They beat the Colts in the playoffs! Just a lot of jealous people whinning because their team didn’t win and Tom Bradt is married to one if the top models in the country. She rakes in more money rhan he does. I don’t think they knew anyrhing abour the balls and if they were tampered with bysomeone who handles the balls that person had no confidence that this team could make it to rhe superbowl and that persin needs to be dealt with. Its not easy to deflate balls in the sidelines with cameras all around either!

  8. If anyone thinks Pat Carroll is without trickery, think again. He got a stupid rule put in while coaching at SC. All cheerleaders mics had to be turned off during the seconds prior to the snap. This was because his QB complained (because they lost) he couldn’t audibilize because all he could hear was a cheerleader. No other team had ever complained. It was at the Rose Bowl where UCLA fans are the loudest ever.

    As to butt patting, Paul, my husband was an officer on a nuclear submarine. What do you think?

  9. Has anybody tested footballs after a game to be deflated that were actually correct at the beginning? In other sports does this happen? Basketball, volleyball, tennis? I think in tennis a player can ask for a different ball. In golf players pick clubs and balls; does that make a difference? I assume so or we wouldn’t have the massive selection of each.

    What difference does it make? Does a deflated football go higher, longer, etc. Can a quarterback, using 12 different balls in the game, determine the difference? What about the Center?

    I see 200+ pound guys on top of the player on top of the ball. Can a football take that many pounds of pressure without losing air?

    I think this wil be a highly watched game. Lots of people zeroing in on a football being squeezed by the quarterback. TV may have started this to increase its audience.

    Is the same football used with each possession? Who on the sidelines gets the football?

    And really, is this brouhaha because it’s a guy game and balls are involved? My husband laughed when I read this to him. So if you don’t you have no sense of humor!

    1. Sandi – ask you husband about all the butt patting that goes on in football. 😉

  10. The press HATE Belichick which is a lot of the impetus of this story having legs.

  11. BFM, Sadly, regional brewers like Old Style are disappearing. G. Heileman, the brewer of Old Style, is now owned by Pabst. And Pabst is now hipster beer, YUCK. Leinenkugel remains, and they are expanding. Point Beer is still operating. I went to school in PA. which had one of the best local beer traditions. There were 2 breweries in the mid sized town I went to school, Gibbons and Stegmaier. I don’t know their status, but the PA. tradition is dying quickly to corporate beer. San Diego, where I am now, has a lotta micro breweries. There’s too GD of them around the country. The beer aisle is like the cereal aisle now. I like choice, but studies show people don’t like too many choices. I’m hoping this micro insanity calms down and the good ones find their niche w/ the others dying a normal death.

  12. Has anyone seen a list of the post game inflation numbers for those 11 footballs? If posted, I missed it. Were they all about the same or all over the place?

  13. BFM said …

    Belichick, Brady, the ball boy? Who would profit from such an unsportsmanlike act?

    The NFL itself…notice how we’re still talking, and more importantly, the media is, about the NFL today, nearly a week after the game. It worked! 🙂

  14. As for deflated footballs…former pro Joe Theismann got it right. Each team’s 12 footballs are inspected pre-game and then stored locked up in the officials’ room until game time. That anyone could tamper with 11 or 12 during a game, with cameras and observers everywhere, is a stretch, especially in light of the fact I am told the Patriots won the game in the 2nd half, using the opponents’ footballs, all allegedly inflated to the spec’s, from the official lock up. Seems to me the NFL screwed the pooch with the Patriots’ footballs, e.g. failed to inspect them properly, and now need a cover story. Or at the minimum more publicity for their entertainment and advertising business.


  15. I tend to believe Belichich when he says he knew nothing about the under-inflated balls. I tend to agree with John Madden who says the only person benefiting from the ball would be The QB. That said, I still have a problem with two of Belichick’s tweets. They seem to be in conflict. Am I overlooking something?

    Bill Belichick: “In my entire coaching career, never talked to any player or staff member about football air pressure.”
    9:42 AM – 22 Jan 2015

    Belichick: “my mentality has been to make it as difficult as possible for players in practice.” Says he makes the balls “worse” in practice.
    9:42 AM – 22 Jan 2015

  16. bigfatmike said ..

    Over a tile, huh??? Hush your whining. You were obviously indoors. Indoor plumbing is such a luxury. Old age must be making you soft, Ari.

    Uh, in rural Korea, where I lived off compound in a local population, the “lavatory” was an out house albeit with tile flooring….very common back then & there. The commode was a hole in said tile floor that you squatted over…and on a windy February day your ventilation was brisk … one tended to not linger long. Only indoor plumbing back then was in the urban centers. Yep, it is nice if you have it, but if you do not have it, your needs still have to be met 🙂 Rural Koreans back then were hard pressed to understand why anyone would want to poop inside the same walls in which they lived and cooked.

    1. @Ari: ” the “lavatory” was an out house albeit with tile flooring….very common back then & there. ”

      I have cousins who grew up on a farm in rural America.

      So far as I remember the house always had running water. But I was well into elementary school before my uncle finished the bathroom with a bath tub and a flush toilet.

      Until that day my cousins bathed, literally, in a galvanized steel tub and used the outhouse out the back door and down the path nearly to the barn.

      BTW the outhouse had a dirt floor. There was, however, a sort of a wooden box to sit on. Nevertheless, a tile floor sounds like serious luxury to me.

  17. OK, now it is a real controversy. The NYT is interviewing employees at Wilson to figure out what happened:

    “Despite reports that the cold weather or a player spiking the ball might have led to the deflation, the only way to remove that much air that quickly would be to put a needle in the valve and to let the air seep out, said Kevin Murphy, who runs the American football division at Wilson.”

    With no plausible innocent explanation in sight, clearly our investigation must consider the possibility of a conspiracy. Belichick, Brady, the ball boy? Who would profit from such an unsportsmanlike act?

  18. Madden: Deflategate’s prime suspect should be Brady

    If the footballs were altered in the AFC Championship Game — or any game — Hall of Fame coach John Madden suggests the primary suspect behind whatever happened should be the quarterback, in this case New England’s Tom Brady.

    Madden admits he was involved in altering footballs before a game at the behest of his quarterback, Ken Stabler. The result was the NFL’s first — and almost last — left-handed night football. But it was all legit. More on that later.

    Meanwhile, in the wake of reports that the NFL uncovered 11 underinflated footballs used by the Patriots in their 45-7 AFC Championship Game victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick — whose history already includes the Spygate incident — is being targeted for breaking the rules once again.

    But Madden says the logical person behind any changes in the football would be the quarterback.

    “That would have to be driven by the quarterback,” Madden told The Sports Xchange on Wednesday. “That’s something that wouldn’t be driven by a coach or just the equipment guy. Nobody, not even the head coach, would do anything to the football unilaterally, such as adjust the amount of pressure in a ball, without the quarterback not knowing. It would have to be the quarterback’s idea.”

    1. Jim N. – I barely passed high school physics and got the same answer that our renowned physicist got. 🙂

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