Since January 2016, when the New England Patriots easily handled the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game 45-7, much has been discussed about Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady with the handling of air pressure in footballs.
After that game, various reports were released about the Patriots using underinflated footballs during the first half. There was a report that 11 of 12 footballs had a loss of air pressure, with only one being dramatically lower than the required measurement.
The one football that was more noticeably deflated than all the others was the one that Brady threw an interception with and the team never got the ball back. Coincidence? The Colts also had six underinflated footballs and nothing was made of it.
The story began when the Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens the week before, coming back twice from 14 points down to win 35-31 and advance to the game against the Colts. The Ravens contacted the NFL Front Office and complained about a play the Patriots used that they thought went against the rulebook.
The play had a tackle, Nate Solder, disguised as a tight end on the other side of the formation and he ended up catching a pass from Brady for a touchdown.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh called it a “trick type of thing,” and Brady urged him to study the rulebook. At this point, Harbaugh did not respect that Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick is a football mastermind and uses his knowledge to his advantage.
Ironically, Harbaugh used the “trick play” in a game the following season against the Oakland Raiders. The play worked, as his team scored a touchdown.
Before the Colts game, Head Referee Walt Anderson was supposed to test the air pressure of footballs, according to NFL protocol. He “forgot,” and didn’t do it until halftime, where the Patriots led 17-7. The Patriots were given a completely new set of footballs, as they were accused of using deflated ones in the first half.
The second half turned out to be a blowout, with the Patriots scoring 28 points and the Colts getting nothing. Nonetheless, it was the first half that everyone talked about and this story became something it never should have been in the first place.
Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson complained to the NFL Front Office about the Patriots’ use of deflated footballs after the game. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell accused Brady of using underinflated footballs and ignored the fact that the Colts had six of theirs with the same issue.
Anderson had the responsibility to check the footballs and somehow Brady and the Patriots were to blame, despite it being a blowout. Two weeks of preparation for the upcoming Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks made it that much more difficult for the Patriots to get ready.
Referees gave the Patriots properly inflated footballs for the game and Brady played the best fourth quarter of his career. He had overcome a 10-point deficit, which no other quarterback or team had ever done in the history of the Super Bowl.
With under a minute to play on a second-and-goal situation for the Seahawks at the Patriots 1-yard line, Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll opted to throw it rather than give it to his trusted running back Marshawn Lynch. Quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass targeted for Ricardo Lockette, but Malcolm Butler shocked the world with the goal line interception.
The 28-24 victory gave Brady his fourth ring, but not without more controversy. In this story known as “Deflategate” Goodell put Brady through a series of unnecessary events, such as hiring an independent investigator to release the “Wells Report” which stated no substantial evidence that Brady did anything wrong.
Brady was handed a four-game suspension that he appealed and won, only for Goodell to appeal and have the suspension reinstated. It is more probable than not that Goodell used his power as judge, jury and executioner to dictate a punishment with no actual evidence to support it.
The Patriots would face a tough task in their first game without Brady this season, having to play without other starters in Rob Gronkowski, Dion Lewis, Rob Ninkovich, Nate Solder and Jonathan Cooper.
The Cardinals opened as 9.5-point favorites and first time starter Jimmy Garoppolo led the Patriots onto the field at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Playing calm and collected, Garoppolo played a terrific game, helping the Patriots steal a win in front of a nationwide audience, 23-21.
Cardinals Quarterback Carson Palmer had some words to say about Brady before the game, “If they tell you not to do it and then you get busted and what happens, happens, then you suffer the consequences.” Palmer felt the karma hit him as he was unable to beat Brady’s backup at home.
To add insult to injury, Cardinals GM Steve Keim was embarrassed by the loss to the Patriots, “You wake up Monday morning with a loss. You’re angry, disappointed, embarrassed and that’s the way we should all feel.
Many will not remember, but the head referee during the famous “Tuck Rule” game, played between the Patriots and Raiders, was Anderson. He was the same referee during the Patriots-Colts “Deflategate” game and the irony of him being at the beginning of the Brady-led Patriots dynasty shows how much the NFL has changed.
Goodell stands firm in his view towards Brady and the Patriots will do everything in their power to ensure that he has to hand the greatest of all time his fifth Lombardi Trophy.