AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Way back when the Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh cried about the Patriots formations, in which the Patriots used a 4-offensive lineman set. But, it turns out that when Tom Brady told John Harbaugh to "study a rule book," Harbaugh should have listned. That is, at least according to back judge Tony Steratore:

"It was absolutely a legal play," he said. "It was a very well-coached play. And it was executed perfectly. From a legality standpoint, it was absolutely legal.

"I had not, in my 16 years of experience, I had never seen a play where an eligible player reported as ineligible . . . The Patriots did everything [correctly], the player reported as ineligible with an eligible number. The referee in the game announced and pointed to the player twice, and said, 'He's ineligible, he's ineligible.' Which is, mechanically, what our responsibility is. We handled it on the fly, I thought, very well."

Harbaugh disagreed, but the referees got it right. Was the formation uncoventional? Sure, but not illegal. I personally can't remember seeing a team use a formation like the ones Bill Belichick used against Baltimore, and then again against the Indianapolis Colts. Steratore and the other officials explained the call to coach Harbaugh, but the Ravens organization still complained to the NFL about it and got the rule change.

"We addressed Coach Harbaugh's concerns after the play and explained to him that, in fact, it was a legal play," he said. "We had a conversation with [Patriots coach Bill Belichick], if he presents that situation that he can expect that we will delay and identify [the ineligible player] so that the defense has an opportunity to match up and recognize the situation."

My feeling on this is that you should be prepared for anything unusual, especially playing against Bill Belichick, who is always 3 steps ahead of the rest of the league. Note to John: Next time someone throws a weird (but legal) formation like that, come up with ways to deal with it on the field instead of crying for a rule change. Because that just makes you a sore loser.

Conor Frederick 8/07/2015 11:10:00 PM Edit

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