I watched the New England Patriots roll over the Indianapolis Colts by 45-7 on their way to the 49th Super Bowl. You can argue that the Patriots have an outstanding offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels, that they have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Tom Brady, that they have one of the best coaches in the league with Bill Bellichick, or that they have one of the best running backs in the game with LeGarrette Blount. But the real story is that they know how to win as a team, utilizing surprise through creative thinking. What a novel approach to winning? And the same creativity results in winning battles during war.
Of course, that never comes without controversy. Trick plays are not considered fair by the opposition. Perhaps that is because they didn’t think of them and use them first. And the public rarely understands or fully appreciates anything that is out of the ordinary. But if you want to win, then you need to think outside of the normal play books. And when you are criticized for doing something out of bounds, and you will be, then just be happy that you won the game or the battle.
After the Patriots utilized surprise play-calling to create a lopsided victory over a premier NFL team, Bob Kravitz of WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, said “The NFL was investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated the football Sunday night.” Kravitz, a former Indianapolis Star columnist, tweeted that “at one point the officials took a ball out of play and weighed it.” NFL spokesman Michael Signora confirmed that the league “is looking into the matter.”
The NFL, according to ESPN, found that 11 out of the 12 footballs that New England provided for Sunday’s AFC championship game were under-inflated by as much as 2 pounds per square inch of pressure. Each NFL team brings 12 Wilson footballs to the game and uses its own. As such, the Patriots’ offense used one set of footballs and when possession shifted, the Colts then brought theirs onto the field.
It is not uncommon for teams to alter the poundage for the benefit of their quarterback. Aaron Rogers likes the footballs overinflated for passing in cold weather in Green Bay. The acceptable limits are between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds. That means that New England had 11 footballs that were deflated under 12.5 pounds with at least one close to 10.5 pounds. A deflated football could be better in rainy conditions like during the game between the Patriots and the Colts.
All game balls are checked by the referee, in the officials’ locker room, two hours and 15 minutes prior to kickoff. Rule 2, section 1 of the NFL Rule Book states: “The Referee shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications. A pump is to be furnished by the home club, and the balls shall remain under the supervision of the Referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game.”
Even if the footballs used by the Patriots were checked and approved prior to the game, they could have been deflated during the game. The home team is responsible for providing sideline attendants who supply the refs with balls as on-field action dictates. But cameras may not have caught this action and referees did not seem to notice any extremely deflated footballs. However, a deflated football isn’t that much of an advantage. It seemed to be more that the Patriots’ offensive line bulldozed gaps for the running game.
But “Deflategate” is just one more accusation of skirting the rules that comes down on Belichick, charging the Patriots as cheating in order to win. Some people will believe the Patriots cheated no matter what because they win so frequently and by large margins. It might be that they use their brains along with their brawn. Creativity leads to big wins, but most people do not understand that.
The Patriots won three championships prior to getting busted by the league for videotaping opposing teams’ sideline signals in 2007. Since that controversy, New England went 18-0 in 2007 and has compiled a 99-28 regular-season record. They also reached two Super Bowls, so it seems clear that “Spygate” was not the reason why the team has been so successful over the years.
It is human nature to support those who follow the rules. However, the rules of play that are commonly utilized should never be a part of your strategy in football or war. You want to surprise the enemy and keep them off balance during the entire engagement. You want to come up with something different that gives your team the advantage. You want to ensure that you win. If you need to deflate the football on a rainy evening to give you an advantage, then you should do that. That is not to say that you should deflate them below the acceptable limits, but you should deflate them to the lowest possible poundage in order to give you an edge in the game.
But that was not why the Patriots won the game so handily. It was because they emphasized their strengths and came up with well-designed offensive plans, including some surprise plays like making the tackle eligible for passes. After the game, most deflated were not footballs, but the egos of the Indianapolis Colts and their fans.