Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was not pleased with what he called “deception” on the part of the Patriots following New England’s 35-31 win over Baltimore in Saturday’s divisional playoff.
Midway through the third quarter, as the Patriots were mounting their comeback, head coach Bill Belichick only used four lineman on a series of plays. Running back Shane Vereen lined up on the line of scrimmage and declared himself an ineligible receiver. That left Michael Hoomanawanui, lined up in a left tackle spot, wide open for a big gain down the middle. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty followed from the Ravens sideline.
“It’s a play that we thought would work,” Belichick said. “We ran it three times, a couple different looks. We had six eligible receivers on the field, but only five were eligible. The one who was ineligible reported that he was ineligible. No different than on the punt team or a situation like that.”
Even though the announcement was made, Vereen’s presence on the line threw Harbaugh and the Ravens coaches off their game and defensive coverages.
“It’s a substitution type of a trick type of a thing,” Harbaugh said. “So they don’t give you the opportunity, they don’t give you the chance to make the proper substitutions and things like that. It’s not something that anybody’s ever done before. The league will look at that type of thing and I’m sure that they’ll make some adjustments and things like that.”
Harbaugh would not comment when asked if he thought the maneuver was cheap or dirty.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn’t see the big deal.
“Who knows. Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out,” Brady said. “We obviously knew what we were doing and we made some pretty important plays. It was a real good weapon for us. Maybe we’ll have something in store next week.”
Brady said he didn’t understand where Harbaugh was getting so deceived. “They should figure it out,” he said.
That seems to be something Harbaugh might still be struggling with.
“Nobody’s ever seen that before,” the Ravens coach said. “We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were, because what they were doing was they would announce the eligible player and then time was taken and they would go over and snap the ball before we even had the chance to figure out who was lined up where, and that was the deception part of it. And that was where it was clearly deception.
“So the officials told me after that they’d give us the opportunity to do that, which they probably should have done during that series but they didn’t really understand what was happening.”