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NFL says Patriots' deceptive formations against Ravens were legal

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John Harbaugh objected to a formation that only included four offensive linemen that New England ran in the first half. The NFL has ruled it legal.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Some controversy surrounded Saturday's game when the New England Patriots went to a bizarre formation that only included four offensive linemen on the field.

The idea was for New England to report the ineligible fifth player that wasn't a lineman but still line up quick to make it hard for the Ravens to identify him. This infuriated Ravens coach John Harbaugh and he let officials know it on the sideline.

However, the NFL has since agreed with the Patriots on this issue.


After the game, Harbaugh commented on the formation and let it be known that he was no fan of what the officials allowed the Patriots to do.

Yeah we wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were, because what they were doing was they would announce the eligible player and then time was taken and they would go over and snap the ball before we even had the chance to figure out who was lined up where, and that was the deception part of it. And that was where it was clearly deception.

So the officials told me after that they'd give us the opportunity to do that, which they probably should have done during that series but they didn't really understand what was happening. That's why I had to go and take the penalty, to get their attention so that they would understand what was going on because they didn't understand what was going on. And they said that that was the right thing, that they'd give us the chance to ID the eligible receivers so we could actually get them covered.

That's why guys were open, because we didn't ID where the eligible receivers were at. So, that's the nature of that particular thing they were doing, that's what made it so difficult.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady fired back with some not-so-friendly comments after hearing what Harbaugh had to say.

Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out. We obviously knew what we were doing and we made some pretty important plays. It was a real good weapon for us.


Regardless, that sequence didn't decide the game. But it was enough to be a talking point as to whether that kind of formation should be used in the NFL.

Vote in the poll listed and discuss the issue below.