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NFL takes Brady's advice to study rulebook, bans Patriots' ineligibles exploit

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NFL studies rulebook and determines that ploy of lining up players with eligible numbers outside the tackle box and declared as ineligible is now explicitly disallowed.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

After the Ravens' final offensive drive (and Hail Mary) fell short, the Patriots held on to win 35-31 in the AFC Divisional round.

Afterwards, Tom Brady, who is often described as the epitome of class and grace, said indignantly after the game, "...maybe they should study the rulebook", in response to a question about the tactic of lining up receivers outside the tackle box declared as ineligible. Brady's sensitivity to the question implied that he did not appreciate his team being grilled again on the subject of rules. Little did he know what awaited him two weeks later.

In any case, the NFL decided to take that advice.

After studying the rulebook, the NFL passed rules banning the exploit during their annual league meetings, thus indicating that the tactic was not consistent with the betterment or spirit of the game.

Ironically, it appears that Tom Brady will now have to re-study the rulebook himself to become acquainted with the forthcoming changes, which include the aforementioned ban on that which was not explicitly illegal before.

That should be no problem though as the Patriots have proven themselves time and again to be an adaptive and cunning adversary in this regard, among others.

The NFL no doubt felt that the referees, themselves often a target of criticism for their interpretation of the rules, would struggle to handle the ploy otherwise, such as in the following week's game when Nate Solder scored a receiving touchdown which Dean Blandino later indicated should not have been a legal play.

Either way, all 32 teams will have to refamiliarize themselves with the nuances of the rulebook in search of further untapped exploits.