The New England Patriots’ win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game on Sunday has been tainted by an NFL investigation into whether the Patriots used deflated footballs during the game. The Patriots’ 45-7 win over the Colts earned them a trip to the Super Bowl to face the Seattle Seahawks, winners of the NFC Championship game. Super Bowl XLIX will be played February 1 in Glendale, Arizona.
On Sunday night, an Indianapolis reporter reported that the NFL had seized at least one game ball from the championship game to examine whether the footballs were intentionally deflated to make it easier to throw and catch them. According to the rules of the NFL, 36 balls are provided by the home team for outdoor games and those balls are to be made available for pressure testing with a pressure gauge prior to the game. The investigation was confirmed by the NFL on Monday morning.
While deflating the footballs would have theoretically made it easier for Brady and his receivers to throw and catch the ball, it would have also benefited Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck, who had a much rougher time completing passes in the championship game. During the game, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Luck completed 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards during the game.
If the NFL confirms that the New England Patriots cheated Sunday night by using deflated footballs, the team could face a number of consequences, including losing future draft picks. However, the outcome of the game is unlikely to be overturned due to the margin of victory and the fact that the Colts used the same game balls.
This is not the first time the Patriots have been embroiled in a cheating controversy. In 2007, the NFL determined through an investigation that the team had illegally videotaped their opponents hand signals. In that case, head coach Bill Belichick was personally fined $500,000 and the team was fined $250,000 and lost a first-round draft pick. In 2002, the St. Louis Rams accused the Patriots of illegally videotaping their walk-through practices. Other teams have also claimed that the Patriots seemed to have inside knowledge of their playbooks before games against them.