Bill Belichick confirmed reports that underinflated footballs were used during the New England Patriots Week 15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. While reminiscent of the infamous “Deflategate” scandal in 2015, Belichick asserts the Patriots had nothing to do with the improperly inflated balls this time.
The Patriots and Chiefs played a highly anticipated Week 15 matchup last Sunday night in Foxborough. The game held major playoff implications, with the Chiefs trying to solidify the AFC’s #1 seed and the Patriots clinging to fading playoff hopes. Ultimately, the Chiefs prevailed 27-17 after storming to a 20-0 first half lead.
After the game, reports surfaced that the footballs used in the first half for kicking plays were significantly underinflated. Sources indicated the footballs were underinflated by “at least” 2 PSI – the same underinflation discovered back in the 2015 AFC Championship game that led to Tom Brady’s infamous 4-game suspension.
Addressing the media Friday, Belichick confirmed the kicking balls used Sunday night were underinflated by “2-2.5 PSI” after measurements were taken at halftime.
“I really don’t know what happened or why it happened. All I can tell you is they were all measured at halftime and they were at 12.5 PSI or just under that…The officials handled the footballs all night, that’s their job not ours. We don’t have anything to do with the footballs after we provide them pregame,” Belichick stated.
While it’s unknown exactly when or why the balls were underinflated, Belichick made it clear he was aware of the situation during the game and the team promptly notified officials.
“We were aware during the game that there was an issue. we notified the officials and they were replaced at halftime,” Belichick said.
The NFL has yet to officially address the situation or launch an investigation. When asked if he expects the league to look into the matter, Belichick deferred responsibility.
“You would have to talk to the league about that. I’m sure they will take whatever steps they feel is appropriate,” Belichick said.
With the league notably strict about the handling of game footballs since Deflategate, an investigation seems imminent. It remains to be seen whether the league will levy any penalties against the Patriots personnel. Based on Belichick’s comments absolving the team of involvement, significant discipline seems unlikely at this point unless further evidence emerges.
News of underinflated footballs naturally sent minds racing back to the 2015 Deflategate scandal. In the 2014 AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, 11 of 12 game balls provided by the Patriots were determined to be underinflated in the second half.
An extensive NFL investigation ensued, led by attorney Ted Wells. In his report, Wells determined it “more probable than not” that Patriots personnel deliberately deflated game balls and that Tom Brady “was at least generally aware” of violations. As punishment, the league suspended Brady four games, fined the Patriots $1 million and stripped them of draft picks.
Brady vehemently denied knowledge or involvement and fought the suspension in court. After a lengthy legal battle, Brady reluctantly served his suspension at the beginning of the 2016 season. Many in New England still harbor resentment over the “unfair” punishment.
With this latest case of underinflation, the league will need to determine the cause and responsible party before issuing any discipline. Unlike Deflategate, Bill Belichick has proclaimed the Patriots’ innocence from the start.
Impact on the Game
While underinflated kicking balls present issues with integrity and fairness, it’s unclear if the pressure discrepancy Sunday night significantly impacted play.
Patriots kicker Nick Folk missed a short field goal on New England’s opening drive, sailing it well left of the uprights. Beyond that aberration, special teams largely performed as expected for both sides.
Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker drilled both field goal attempts while Pats rookie Marcus Jones had returns of 18 and 17 yards. Kansas City punter Tommy Townsend averaged nearly 47 yards on 6 boots.
Considering most key special teams contributors have expressed comfort kicking “deflated” balls in practice, it’s unlikely the PSI levels altered Sunday night’s outcome. Either way, the league investigation should uncover more details in the coming weeks.
Table of Notable Quotes
|“I really don’t know what happened or why it happened. All I can tell you is they were all measured at halftime and they were at 12.5 PSI or just under that…”
|“We were aware during the game that there was an issue. we notified the officials and they were replaced at halftime.”
|“You would have to talk to the league about that. I’m sure they will take whatever steps they feel is appropriate.”
What Happens Next
All eyes now turn to the NFL offices as the league decides how to handle this latest football air pressure controversy. Based on Bill Belichick’s remarks exonerating Patriots staff from any wrongdoing, the team seems unlikely to face major penalties barring further developments.
The league also needs to determine exactly when and how the kicking balls became underinflated Sunday night. Identifying the failure point would establish accountability and help prevent recurrence league-wide.
As for the Patriots and Chiefs, both teams maintain focus on the playoffs starting next month. The Pats need to win out and receive help to clinch a Wild Card spot. Meanwhile, Kansas City can seal home field advantage by beating the Seahawks and Raiders to finish the regular season.
This story undoubtedly resurfaces unpleasant memories in New England of the damaging Deflategate saga. However, Bill Belichick’s prompt admission this time helps mitigate suspicion around the Patriots’ actions. Assuming no evidence of ball tampering emerges, the team appears well-positioned to avoid severe sanctions. Still, with another air pressure debacle now on file, the scrutiny in Foxborough won’t subside anytime soon.
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