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. This blog is bringing forth more scientific debate than the climate change issue. Don’t your think the whole thing is a bit ‘over-inflated?’

  2. Warren Sharp wrote a follow up piece to his article on the Patriots’ fumble ratio.

    From 2000-2006, the Patriots were average in the NFL for fumbling. But from 2007-2014, they have been statistically off the chart. 2007 was the year the NFL changed the rules for footballs, with Brady wanting the change.

    Patriots’ players suddenly stopped fumbling the ball starting in 2007. And Patriots players who went to other teams suddenly started fumbling more than they did in New England.

    Since it’s not because they have players who don’t fumble, it must be some other reason.

    I enjoyed watching Seattle dismantle Manning in the Super Bowl last year. I won’t be watching this year because the NFL is not serious about enforcing its rules.

    But bet on the Seahawks to repeat. The teams don’t get to doctor the footballs in the Super Bowl. If Shady Brady can’t cheat, he won’t win.

  3. Steven,

    You apparently have not actually paid any attention to the facts. It was a Colts’ LB who intercepted a Brady pass in the 2nd quarter who gave the ball to his coaches and said it felt under-inflated. The coaches told the Colts’ management, who informed the NFL, which is why the balls were tested at halftime. The NFL is also saying they were planning on testing the Pats’ balls at halftime even before that interception, due to previous allegations of the Patriots breaking the rules about inflation limits.


    The argument about the change in temperature causing the deflation is nonsense. First, 50 degrees at game time is not cold. It is “football weather.” There have been tens of thousands of games played by Big 10 schools and NFL teams (Green Bay, Chicago, etc.) in “football weather.” It is the temperature preferred by many players. Add in small colleges, high schools, and younger players and you have millions of games played in those weather conditions.

    Why is it, then, that nobody has ever had a question about balls deflating in such weather? Why don’t they keep pumps on the sidelines of every game so they can pump up the balls every few minutes to keep them at normal levels? They don’t do it because footballs don’t deflate in such conditions. That’s why.

    The Colts’ balls “should” have deflated, too. But they didn’t. If the Pats started with 12.5 and went down to 10.5, and if the Colts started at 13.5, then their balls would have been down to 11.5, also under regulations. But they didn’t.

    Why was the Pats’ kicker ball the only one of 12 that was not under-inflated at halftime?

    Why did the Colts notice 2 Pats balls were under-inflated in their November game in Indy, in a dome? They notified the NFL, but the NFL did nothing about it.

    A lot of people are hell-bent on putting their head in the sand and avoiding the obvious conclusion: the Patriots cheated, and have probably been doing so for some time.

    I love the game of football. That is why I will not be watching this year’s Super Bowl.

  4. Why didnt any colts players notice this, I mean they are supposedly
    professional players even tho it didnt show in that game. Also the refs
    Everyone that handled that ball as a professional should have notice
    this during the game. Why do they all wait until after the fact and an ass
    kicking. Its like ” oh no the pats kicked our ass again what can we come
    up with and say they cheated” I say if you didnt notice a difference in the
    ball that was in play, you probably shouldn’t be handling one, especially as a nfl player. This is all just so stupid and childish. With that said,
    GO PATS………….

  5. What the hell, as long as I’ve stumbled into this thread, why not have some more fun?

    Okie said…
    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.

    That’s not the temperature-based argument. If the balls were tested in 5° temps, they’d have maintained their initial psi. But if the balls had been stored and inspected in a heated facility (say, 70°), then the internal pressure of the balls would decline as their internal temps declined. A simple calculation based on the Ideal Gas Law verifies that this could account for a 1 to 1.5 psi drop by halftime. The rain also could affect psi by altering the elasticity of the ball’s surface. A Pittsburgh lab performed a test replicating game conditions on the assumption that the initial internal temp of the balls was 75°F (simply pumping them up can raise internal temp, btw), and concluded:

    Out of the twelve footballs we tested, we found that on average, footballs dropped 1.8 PSI when being exposed to dropping temperatures and wet conditions.

    Okie also said…There is ZERO chance that Brady, the receivers, and the backs have no idea that the football feels different when it is under inflated. ZERO chance.

    Sandi H. has the right reply to this assertion: sitting in a studio making direct comparisons of two footballs does not replicate handling a game ball and comparing it to the feel of a more-inflated ball.

    Finally, the fumble study linked by Okie is interesting, but hardly conclusive. Belichick is known for benching players who can’t hold on to the ball. But I think a reasonable test would be to compare NE’s fumble rate on kicking plays to its rate on plays from scrimmage, b/c the kicking balls are overseen solely by the officials. If the Pats fumble at league average on kicking plays while fumbling far less on plays from scrimmage, that would be pretty good evidence that they’re benefiting from low psi.

    But if that’s simply a consequence of starting the game at 12.5 psi, the Pats aren’t cheating, they’re just (once more) outsmarting the rest of the league.

    Which is the real reason people hate them, IMO.

  6. Lots of misinformation here about that NFL rule change re football prep.

    First, Tom Brady was playing football for the University of Michigan in 1999. The rule change occurred in 2006.

    That’s trivial, but this is not: the rule change did not transfer control of the game balls from NFL officials to the teams. It transferred control from the home team to both teams:

    Manning and his New England counterpart, Tom Brady, were the driving forces behind a rule change this season that allows visiting quarterbacks to break in a dozen balls for use during every game. The visiting team’s offense previously had to play with balls that were broken in by the home quarterback—a little-known aspect of the home-field advantage.

    So, no, the pre-2006 rules did not call for scrupulous “chain of custody” monitoring that insulated pristine game balls from the shenanigans of sneaky coaches and players and ball boys. It simply gave each team an equal opportunity to get the game balls to conform to the preferences of their QBs.

    Also in that NYT article you’ll find an extensive discussion of Manning’s and Brady’s obsession w/ the surface features of the ball, but no mention at all about them caring much about psi.

    But one QB did talk about ball pressure –David Carr, then the Denver QB, about whom the article says:

    …he thought the ball expanded slightly at the altitude and felt slick because of the lower humidity. Before Houston’s preseason game at Denver, Carr instructed the ball boys to let a little air out of the Texans’ footballs.

    And, presumably, Denver’s footballs as well.

    So we learn two things about David Carr: (1) he’s a real sportsman, who was happy to help out the opposing QB in a preseason game, and (2) he didn’t consider it unseemly at all to ask the ball boys to adjust ball pressure to optimize performance. It’s incredible that the NFL is still functional after such an assault on its integrity.

    And no, Carr was never coached by Bill Belichick. But maybe Tom Brady was once a member of the same UM fraternity that recently trashed a hotel. We’d better investigate, just to be sure. When the integrity of the NFL is at stake, we must leave no stone unturned.

    1. Thanks Chip S. Should known better than repeat/quote a sport commentary. One of these days I’ll learn. The dates were my mistake.

  7. I never heard more useless talk from a bunch of morons with nothin better to do than bash on a team because all they do is win ! Not 1 inch of evidence has come out about the incident! So comment all you want an wish evil on the pats an talk about fines and draft picks an all this other stupid shit! I actually saw one stupid prick say no playoffs for 5 years ! Wat an idiot ! Deflate gate was a setup by manginie an his jealousy for belechek! 80000 people were watching this coach that they taped any one of the 80000 could have been spying for any team in any game all teams were doing it ! All these morons like richard sherman talk trash and he got busted for ped s . Thats cheating if u ask me! . Until brady gets proven guilty keep your hate to yourself ! Better yet grab some popcorn an watch brady and bad bill win another ring stupid

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