NFL teams couldn’t beat the New England Patriots in last season’s playoffs, so now they’re changing the rules.
Bill Belichick’s creative (and previously legal) ineligible-receiver tactics have been banned, the Baltimore Ravens announced Wednesday via Twitter. NFL owners voted to approve a rule change that prevents teams from lining up ineligible receivers outside the tackle box. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh called the tactic “clearly deception” after the game.
The Patriots beat the Ravens in the AFC divisional round using the creative formation, making running back Shane Vereen ineligible and lining him up at slot receiver. Since Vereen couldn’t cross the line of scrimmage on a passing play, he ran a route backwards, which meant the Ravens still had to account for him.
The Patriots would be forced to play Vereen on the offensive line if they chose to make him ineligible under the new rule.
Belichick noted Tuesday that if the rule passed, it would affect special-teams plays, too. It will be interesting to see if the language of the new rule differentiates between offensive and special-teams plays.
“Whatever it is, it is,” Belichick told reporters in Phoenix at the NFL Annual Meeting. “It would affect a lot of other plays — the spread punt formation and stuff like that. Whatever the rule is, it is.”
The Patriots’ tactics worked against the Ravens because of the element of surprise. They used it once against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game, and it didn’t work. The Patriots didn’t try the tactic in their Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seattle Seahawks, and it’s unlikely they would have used it extensively next season.
Owners did not vote on the Patriots’ proposal to move back the extra point to the 15-yard line.
Thumbnail photo via Elise Amendola/Associated Press
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