The New England Patriots’ use of eligible and ineligible receivers has received much play this postseason.
Even though the Patriots used the formations only a handful of times, the unconventional plays caused confusion for both Baltimore and Indianapolis.
The Patriots threw two passes for 30 yards against the Ravens while using formations that used ineligible receivers in an attempt to confuse the defense.
New England also benefited from a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, who went onto the field to argue with officials.
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Tom Brady threw an incompletion on one formation that utilized ineligible receivers against the Colts, but the Patriots did score on a 16-yard touchdown pass to left tackle Nate Solder. (Officials should have penalized New England after Solder didn’t report as an eligible receiver before the play.)
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels repeatedly has defended the ineligible receiver formations, which the NFL has deemed legal.
“One thing about that that I’d like to clear up is we didn’t do any of those things without huddling,” McDaniels said. “When we did those things the last couple of games we huddled every time we did it with the ineligible player. We substituted; we huddled; we declared him ineligible; the official declared him ineligible; and then we lined up.”
Pete Carroll said Thursday the Seahawks talked to the league about Patriots players properly reporting and officials correctly relaying the information.
“We’ve been preparing for it every day because we don’t want to be caught in mishandling on our end,” the Seahawks coach said. “It’s really on us to see it. The officials do what they do, but we still have to find it because it could happen like it did to the Colts. We’re very much in tune with it. It has just been part of the preparation, so it’s not a big deal to us now.”
The competition committee is expected to at least discuss the issue at its spring meetings.
“I think you’ll see some rules tweaking to say what you can do or give the defense a little bit more time to adjust,” NBC analyst and former coach Tony Dungy said, “but, yeah, it’s really smart and taking advantage of the rules.”
The Hitchens Rule?
The Detroit Lions have proposed adding to reviewable plays. They hope to make penalty calls — or non-calls — reviewable after their playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Officials called Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens for pass interference in the fourth quarter only to overturn the call after the penalty was announced and the ball spotted.
Dean Blandino, NFL vice president of officiating, has said officials missed a holding call on Hitchens.
“We’ve had discussions going back to last off-season, talking about expanding replay and adding to the list of reviewable plays,” Blandino said in a news conference Thursday. “I think when you look at the evolution of replay and where it started, it was always based in fact. Did the football touch the ground? Did the foot touch the sideline? And we stayed away from the areas that involved subjective judgment.
“There’s always judgment, but there’s different levels of subjective judgment, and that was in the areas of pass interference and offensive holding.
“I think it’s something as the technology has improved and now we have high definition and super slow motion and 4K, all of that technology begs the question, can we eliminate some of the mistakes that happen during the game? I think that’s something that’s going to be on the agenda this off-season.”
Kearse the hero
Jermaine Kearse was transformed from goat to hero in the amount of time it took him to run 35 yards. His catch over Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams in overtime capped a furious rally by the Seahawks, who trailed 19-7 with 3:52 remaining in regulation.
Kearse’s play came after he was the target on four Russell Wilson passes that the Packers intercepted. Two were the fault of the receiver.
“It was definitely a roller coaster of emotions,” Kearse said. “You kind of have a down moment, and you just try to pick yourself back up. It’s just about staying in tune, staying in the game and not quitting.”