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Belichick scoffs at talk that four-lineman formation was cheating


Patriots coach Bill Belichick thinks it’s ridiculous that anyone is complaining about his team tricking the Ravens on Saturday by using a formation with only four offensive linemen on the field.

Depending on whom you ask, Belichick is either a genius or a cheater for employing the four-lineman formation. But Belichick pointed out that players who are ordinarily eligible receivers line up in ineligible positions on punts all the time, and he sees no reason not to do it on offense.

I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Belichick said when pressed about whether the league should look into the way he lined up his players. “I mean, that happens all the time. You come in on a punt team, ineligible guys report as eligible. They line up as guards and tackles on the punt team. The center, the center’s numbers in the NFL are eligible players that report ineligible. Then they cover punts. We’ve seen it on offense. We see it particularly a lot on special teams, the kicking game, punting game — not so much on the field goals because you have your linemen protecting there. But I’d say it happens every game on the punt team. You’re allowed to do that. I don’t really understand what the question is. If you want to talk about the rules, you should talk to the NFL rules people about that. They’ll tell you about it.”

Belichick is right that it happens all the time on punts, but no one seems to remember ever seeing anything like it on offense. Part of Belichick’s genius is that he thinks of things that no NFL coach had ever thought of before. That’s not cheating, it’s good coaching.