Patriots

John Harbaugh: Ravens’ trickery different than Patriots ‘deceptive’ formation

John Harbaugh: Ravens’ trickery different than Patriots ‘deceptive’ formation

FOXBORO – John Harbaugh explained on Thursday the difference between the rules loophole his Ravens exploited recently and the one the Patriots exploited in the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff Game that caused him to cry, “Foul.”

What it boiled down to? According to Harbaugh, everyone knew about the loophole the Ravens took advantage of when they committed an en masse holding penalty at the end of the game against the Bengals. But, he claimed, nobody had seen what the Patriots successfully pulled off -- even though it had been used twice in the weeks prior to the Pats-Ravens matchup, once in college and once in the NFL -- when they made eligible receivers ineligible and vice versa and went on a touchdown drive that changed the tenor of the game.

“You’re right. I don’t want to get into all that,” Harbaugh said when I asked what the difference was. “That’s all been hashed out. I believe what I believe and I think it’s all been proven to be right.

“The point about [the punt hold] is, it’s been talked about, it’s been looked at, it’s been something that’s been used for 20 years so it’s nothing new,” he explained. “It’s nothing that hadn’t been addressed before by officials or the competition committee.”

Harbaugh said that, in Super Bowl 47, his Ravens used the tactic and his brother Jim, coach of the Niners, took it up with the Competition Committee. John Harbaugh supported the change, he said. The league declined.  

“Everybody knew about that so it didn’t create an unfair advantage for anybody,” said Harbaugh.

LISTEN: New Quick Slants podcast w/ more stories of Ravens antics

After the Patriots beat Baltimore in a tremendous game, Harbaugh was in a snit in his postgame press conference alleging the “nobody’s ever seen that [eligible-ineligible trickery] before.” He said the play was “illegal” and “deceptive.”

I mentioned that Alabama had run the play in a nationally televised game against LSU and that the Titans had done the same thing on a game-ending play against the Jets a few weeks earlier.

Aside from whether or not the information was accurately communicated by the officials, the tone of Harbaugh’s comments left little room for interpretation. He indicated the Patriots were underhanded and that his comments seemed to discredit New England.

“That was not the intent and if you go back and read my comments at the time and the tone of it anybody that takes it that way is taking it the wrong way,” said Harbaugh. “That was not the point of it at all. You had an eligible receiver that wasn’t identified and an ineligible receiver that wasn’t identified as such. The official had no way to identify that for the defense so there was no signal or any other way that they could do that. That was something that was addressed the very next week. If somebody wants to look at it some certain way, that’s not my concern.”

When I offered that referee Bill Vinovich not only identified Shane Vereen as being ineligible but added, “Don’t cover 34…” over the stadium mic, Harbaugh wasn’t having it.  

“That’s not something that had ever been gone over,” he insisted. “Players were never taught don’t cover that player. When you’re on the field, you can’t hear that microphone. That’s not something you can even hear or are listening for. The next week there was a tweak.”

Indeed there was. And not just with the officials then being on the hook to make more detailed announcements. The further tweak, perhaps spurred by the formation chicanery and Tom Brady’s recommendation that Baltimore “study the rules” came when the Ravens passed on intel to the Colts for the AFC Championship Game. One of the recommendations from Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg was to watch that the Patriots’ sideline staff didn’t monkey with the kicking balls. That was included in a letter to NFL Operations man Mike Kensil along with an allegation that it was “well known around the league” that the Patriots deflate footballs before the game and that the league needed to keep an eye on that.

Harbaugh hasn’t hidden from the fact he found Brady’s comment offensive.

"I was pissed off," he said this past summer. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed . . . So yeah, that should never have been said."

He has, however, disavowed any talk by his staff about the Patriots allegedly deflating footballs. "Any conversation that was had with the Colts had nothing to do with deflated footballs, which is what we've been saying since the very start," Harbaugh said in 2015. "I know that we've answered the questions from the beginning to the end very simply. Our yes is yes. Our no is no. We've answered questions directly and honestly and straightforward from the start."

Whether the Patriots’ formation plays and the Ravens response to it led to a $30 million investigation that hijacked the NFL’s attention for 20 months and resulted in a four-game suspension for Brady is still not definitively known. Could Rosburg and the Colts equipment man have possibly discussed kicking ball chicanery without sharing notes on the belief the Patriots deflated footballs? Rosburg and former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Ravens coach Dean Pees were both spoken to by investigator Ted Wells. What did they offer?

Just like everything else between Ravens and Patriots, it’s complicated.  
 
 

Patriots Talk Podcast: Patriots Opposing Views - Perspectives from around the NFL

Patriots Talk Podcast: Patriots Opposing Views - Perspectives from around the NFL

Over the last few weeks, NBC Sports Boston's Patriots insiders Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry have chatted with NFL writers from around the country to get their perspective on the Pats as well as the teams they cover.

To catch up on the Patriots Opposing Views series, look no further than the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast.

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1:15 – Mary Kay Cabot joins Tom to discuss the Cleveland Browns. Topics include: how close the team was to hiring Josh McDaniels and if the Odell Beckham Jr.-to-New England rumors are dead.

11:08 – Ed Bouchette joins Tom to discuss the Pittsburgh Steelers. Topics include: the excitement level in Pittsburgh now that Tom Brady has left New England and whether Ben Roethlisberger can return to an elite level.

22:46 – Joe Rexrode joins Phil to discuss the Tennessee Titans. Topics include: the reasons for Mike Vrabel’s coaching success and if the team was right to choose Ryan Tannehill over Tom Brady this offseason.

30:11 – John McClain joins Tom to discuss the Houston Texans. Topics include: what John thinks of Jarrett Stidham after watching him at Baylor and why Bill O’Brien traded DeAndre Hopkins.

39:32 – Justin Rogers joins Phil to discuss the Detroit Lions. Topics include: if Matt Patricia is on the ‘hot seat’ as head coach and the odds Matthew Stafford ends his career outside of Detroit.

You can check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.

Next Pats Podcast: How Dalton Keene can transform Patriots offense

Next Pats Podcast: How Dalton Keene can transform Patriots offense

In the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots addressed their need at the tight end position by selecting Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene with back-to-back picks.

Keene, a Virginia Tech product, is a particularly intriguing rookie due to his versatility. Anyone who knows Bill Belichick knows that the Patriots head coach loves a player who can act a swiss army knife and can be effective no matter where you put them on the field, and Keene was exactly that during his college years.

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Brad Cornelsen, Keene's offensive coordinator at Virginia Tech, believes Belichick and the Patriots will be pleased with everything the young tight end brings to the table as a player. On the latest Next Pats Podcast with Phil Perry, Cornelson explained how Keene excelled at multiple roles on offense and can translate that experience to the NFL.

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In high school he was a quarterback, I mean he did a little bit of everything so we knew there was some versatility when he came. But I think his natural spot when he showed up was kind of that hybrid guy for us between tight end and kind of back. And so, playing him in the backfield quite a bit in the run game, blocking, kicking out edges, getting on the perimeter, those were the ways we kind of used him initially. Certainly the prototypical guy that you can split out that can line up at slot ... great hands, great concentration, doesn't hardly drop anything ...

The swiss army knife. He can do it all and has done it all for us. It didn't surprise me when I saw the team that drafted him, just the reputation that the Patriots have for really placing such a huge value on tough, smart football players.

Obviously, Keene's primary responsibility to begin his NFL career will be to develop as a tight end. But Perry brings up the interesting scenario of Keene teaming up with Danny Vitale at the fullback position.

I look at the San Francisco 49ers and their usage of [Kyle] Juszczyk, an athletic fullback, and then I look at the two athletic the Patriots have at fullback themselves now in Vitale and Keene, and I wonder if we won't see something similar in New England in 2020. I would say of Vitale and Keene, both very different types of players from James Develin. James Develin was a sledgehammer ... I wouldn't look at Vitale or Keene as someone who's necessarily going to come right away and fill that same type of role ...  I think that these two guys that they have now, they're both a little bit lighter ... I would say both are more explosive athletes and both are probably more dynamic in terms of what they can provide a passing game as receivers themselves.

Also discussed on the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast are how Keene got the nickname "Rambo," how having an athletic fullback could help quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and much more.

Check out more of the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below: