Belichick may have gotten ineligible receiver idea from Saban

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After Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, Ravens coach John Harbaugh complained about New England’s ineligible eligible receiver gimmick.

“It’s not something that anybody’s ever done before,” Harbaugh said.

But someone has indeed done it.  This season.  In a fairly high-profile game.

Alabama-LSU.  November 8.  First play of overtime.  Here’s the video.

An ineligible offensive lineman lined up in the slot.  An eligible receiver lined up as the left tackle.  LSU put a defender on the ineligible man in the slot, who stepped back from the line at the snap and put his hands up, calling for a ball that by rule he couldn’t touch.  On the other side of the field, the left tackle ran past the defensive end, whose initial inclination was to rush the passer but who then realized that the man who was supposed to be blocking him had sprinted past him.

It’s likely not a coincidence, as surmised by Peter King of

“Belichick and [Alabama coach Nick] Saban are very close,” King writes.  “There is no doubt in my mind, based on the duplication of the play, that the Patriots got this play from Alabama.  And good for them.  It’s perfectly legal, despite Baltimore’s protestations to the contrary, and though officiating czar Dean Blandino told me Sunday the league is going to examine the play (actually, the Patriots completed three passes, for 11, 14 and 16 yards on the three plays they ran), what rule can the NFL change?”

On Sunday, PFT reported that the league would look into whether the Ravens were properly notified by the officials that Patriots running back Shane Vereen had reported as ineligible.  Based on Blandino’s comments to King, it appears the NFL preliminarily has concluded that the Ravens weren’t treated unfairly.

“The whole issue with Baltimore is they felt they weren’t given enough time [to match up],” Blandino told King.  “We will review the three plays, but it appears from a mechanical standpoint that the announcement was made properly, the defense was notified, and the proper mechanics were executed.’’

And so it appears that it was a valid play, that it wasn’t unprecedented, and that at a time when Harbaugh may have spent some time picking the brain of a college football coach who happens to be his brother, Belichick picked the brain (or simply pilfered the playbook) of a different college coach.

87 responses to “Belichick may have gotten ineligible receiver idea from Saban

  1. Sour grapes. Harbaugh’s just mad because he didn’t think of it first. Can’t the Ravens ever lose with class? I guess the Ravens are entitled to win every game, and if they lose, it’s never their fault.

  2. The Harbuaghs have never lost a game without it being stolen from them–just ask them!

  3. Yes. Although I don’t know where he finds the time, Belichick follows the college game very closely. With college coaches feeding him info on both game innovations and quality players that might slip through the draft, he ends up with a lot of extra firepower.

  4. A team is limited to the skills of 11 players on the field, but there is no limit to the amount of players off the field to borrow ideas from. The best coaches are the ones that pay the most attention to quality ideas and then share those ideas with their players.

  5. Same network? I thought NBC only had Notre Dame package?????

    Belichick has taken stuff from Chip Kelly, Urban Meyer, and Nick Saban. That’s no big secret. John Harbaugh is a great coach, even if he’s a bit of a whiner. The Patriots have more talent and Harbaugh almost pulled off another upset of them in Foxboro.

  6. Harblah got caught with his pants down. He could have called timeout to review. Instead he ran on the field like a baby costing his team more yardage. He completely panicked.

  7. The stadium announcer said that Vereen checked into the game and reported as ineligible.

    Not sure how Harbaugh or anyone on his staff or his players missed it…

  8. It was a great play call. But, let’s be honest. It’s not like it won them the game. It got them a first down and seven yards. The Edelman play was far bigger.

    But, it just goes to show you how desperate they were to win.

  9. This was just GENIUS and Bill has a way of always creating something new to just win games as an end result. I’m not even a Patriots fan but this was perfect and a calm Brady orchestrated it perfectly.
    As for Harbaugh crying, he is doing his job to delay the clock to figure out what went wrong being he and his coaches did not react and adjust properly. He should stop post game comments and in reality, it’s more embarrassing for him.

  10. Do I have this right… Belichick is a genius because he stole a play from Saban?

    And people wonder why we are worn out on the Belichick worship…

  11. LOL The Baltimore Ravens and Jim Harbaugh were legally duped. Most fans in south Florida hate the both of them but coming up with something out of the box is how one wins a close contest.

  12. There is only one play in the gamebook for the Pats-Ravens game that has a player reporting as “ineligible”. The one with Vareen. What were the other 2 plays?

  13. Isn’t the wild cat meant to deceive? Play action? reverses? Direct snaps to a running backs?Fake Field goals? ……………….Whiners

  14. “Belichick picked the brain (or simply pilfered the playbook) of a different college coach.”

    Way to feed the trolls.

    “Pilfered” something that was on national TV???

    Regardless of where the play came from, it was legal, the Patriots notified the refs, who notified the Ravens – going so far as to tell them SPECIFICALLY “don’t cover 37!”.

    The Ravens fell for this play THREE TIMES, for God’s sakes …. and Harbaugh has the nerve to cry “Trick play, trick play!!!!” ?????

    The Ravens blew TWO 14 point leads. The Ravens screwed up NUMEROUS times, they have NO EXCUSE.

    Haters gonna hate, though.

  15. Probably more likely that it came from Ernie Adams, who may or may not have seen Saban do it.

    Google Ernie Adams.

  16. Belichick is always picking the brains of innovative young coaches. Years ago he built a relationship with Chip Kelly when Chip was at the University of New Hampshire.

    To take inspiration and advice from others, even people that (at the time) most have never heard of, shows how LITTLE of an ego Belichick has.

  17. “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Belichick Zone.”

    In ur hedz doin our Patriot dance

  18. New England came back from TWO fourteen point deficits, burned the Ravens on a 51yd. trick-play BOMB from Mini-tron, and made Harbaugh pout.

    Just go and clean out your lockers and take it like men Baltimore.

  19. Who cares, the season is over for the Ravens and it really sucks. You could tell the refs didn’t know what was going on either. The reality is the Ravens defense SUCKED in the second half. Suggs and Dum were non factors and Pees was out coached.

    Having said all that the Patriots are a slimy bunch and hopefully they run out of tricks and get SMOKED by Luck and the colts next week. be good to know the genius only wins when he tapes the other team’s practices! Not really that genius at all.

  20. Nothing illegal about it. It’s actually a pretty risky play to call. If the defense figures out what’s going on quickly enough, then the offensive line will end up short a blocker, and the defense will have an easy blitz and sack.

  21. If it’s legal than it’s a smart play. I watched the game pretty closely and never saw a ref give the eligible receiver signal. Maybe he did and it wasn’t on the screen but they usually announce it to so I would have heard it. Either way it’s over. Refs make mistakes. Ask the Lions.

  22. If you can’t get enough pressure to disrupt a play when the offense only has 4 legit O linemen on the field, you probably don’t deserve to win.

  23. And Saban may have got it from the Colts. The Colts did this to New England this year. Anthony Costonzo, was lined up at his left tackle position but was also the left end on the line of scrimmage and therefore eligible (the other ineligible receivers were split wide right) and Costonzo caught an easy TD from Luck.

    It was the same exact formation NE used against Baltimore just in a different part of the field.

    I don’t recall anyone saying boo about it then.

    They lost two 14 point leads and Dumerville / Suggs barely registered a blip on the radar against an offensive line that was getting their collective hats handed to them the last 2 or 3 games of the regular season.

  24. Blandino looks it up. Realizes it’s within the rules. Gets disappointed that he has nothing to lie about. Tells his friends he beat Mike Tyson without Game Genie in one try.

  25. thank God in heaven that Bill Belichick is the coach of the New England Patriots! The rest of you who complain are just sore losers and you wish to God every single day that you had a guy as good coaching your team so every year you could have a chance to win the Superbowl. You can yell Spygate or any other horse crap all you like but at the end of the day your team is playing golf and my team is still playing for a championship!

  26. Everyone is Missing the Point. The “trick” was the jersey numbers, linemen have numbers which are ineligible to go receive the ball, so the defense/refs can identify them easily, if not there would be no jersey number restrictions. What the Pats were doing, were bringing a player with a normally eligible numbered jersey and playing him in a lineman position, couple that with no huddle, the defense is behind the 8 ball with the “jersey” trick. The Ravens just wanted to be able to indentify the lineman because he was not wearing a lineman number…..imagine a scenario where they designate a different rb/wr as a “lineman” every play and then go no huddle. If the Patriots run the same play with a back up lineman rather than Vereen, Ravens have no complaint. What Alabama did was put the lineman out in that spot (not a rb or wr).. the defense can easily identify that player as an ineligible receiver due to his jersey number.

  27. This only makes people mad because Belichick did it. I would love to have a creative coach that mind f’s teams like this. 20 years from now Harbaugh is still going to be mad about this and have Belichick on his mind. That’s a total mastery of winning the mental game.

  28. Matt Chatham made a few good points:

    1.Defenses have a “safe” call if there is confusion about how to line up. They just go to zone coverage, so it doesn’t matter what receivers are eligible.

    2. The 6-8 seconds between the announcement and the snap was more time than the pace during a two minute drill.

    3. The Patriots ran the same gimmick multiple times in the same series, and the Ravens never adjusted after the first play.

    If Harbaugh wants to point fingers, he should get a mirror.

  29. People want to believe Harbaugh said they cheated. He said “deceptive”. Was it deceptive. Yes. But deceptive is legal and playbooks are full of deception which is why he didn’t say cheating.

    His issue was having time to send in the proper defense. Defenses are entitled to substitute when an offense does.

    In the end no one can claim (and I’ve heard no one attempt to claim) that this is what lost the game. No secondary should be shredded for 400+ yards. Pats didn’t even try to run.

  30. Those in the stadium heard the ref’s eligible/ineligible declarations announced over the PA system. It indeed was announced. The TV audience didn’t notice on;y because Collinsworth and Michaels talked over the refs announcements.

    At least 7 seconds AFTER the announcement, the ball was snapped on each of the three occasions, according to Peter King.

    Yes, the Ravens had AT LEAST a full 7 seconds to recognize what was going on each time.

  31. For the record, Harbaugh’s complaint wasn’t with the formation. It was with the referees not IDing “eligible” receivers, only the ineligible one, and not allowing the defense time to substitute to match.

    Once that was sorted out, the “deception” stopped.

    But lets spin it to make it sound like he thought BB was cheating, because thats a much juicier story.

    Fans are so ignorant.

  32. “Those in the stadium heard the ref’s eligible/ineligible declarations announced over the PA system. It indeed was announced. The TV audience didn’t notice on;y because Collinsworth and Michaels talked over the refs announcements.

    At least 7 seconds AFTER the announcement, the ball was snapped on each of the three occasions, according to Peter King.

    Yes, the Ravens had AT LEAST a full 7 seconds to recognize what was going on each time.”

    If this truly happened than good for the Patriots. I have ravens season tickets and if they were indeed informed, than shame on them. (not a Harbaugh fan)

  33. Sour grapes. Harbaugh’s just mad because he didn’t think of it first. Can’t the Ravens ever lose with class? I guess the Ravens are entitled to win every game, and if they lose, it’s never their fault.

    Can a patsies fan ever win with class?

  34. Sometimes defense/ST carries a team, sometimes the offense, and sometimes you need great coaching. Sometimes all 3. Ravens played well enough to eek out a win, but were outcoached at a critical point in the game.

  35. The Patriots just can’t seem to get thru a postseason without controversy. Just keep in mind that this is an franchise that celebrates unethical tactics. #snowplow

  36. Can the ineligible player eligible to catch a lateral or backward pass or receive a handoff? If so, the ineligible player wearing a skill position number must still be accounted for by the defense. He’s not a dummie player if he can still handle the ball in some capacity. I wonder what the rule is for behind the scrimmage plays.

  37. It was so tricky that the Pats were able to get 35 points out of three plays where they lined up with only 4 OLineman.

    That’s more points than any other team put on the Ravens all year!

    Oh, the treachery …

  38. No Pats fans complained when Indy did something similar to us this year. Anthony Castonzo was lined up at tackle next to the guard, reported as eligible and caught a TD while he was uncovered. Indy ran an unbalanced line and he reported as an eligible receiver.

  39. Man is it fun watching the Patriot-hater-trolls getting nervous.

    PS – Spygate was about taping the hand signals of defensive coaches in plain view to 70,000 people in the stadium. They never taped “practices.” Rams walkthrough was never taped. What do you people think Belichick used to leave Foxboro and fly a hang glider to other cities during the week to spy from the air? Tin-foil hat lunatics.

  40. For the record, Harbaugh’s complaint wasn’t with the formation. It was with the referees not IDing “eligible” receivers, only the ineligible one, and not allowing the defense time to substitute to match

    The eligible Reviver was always eligible. It was a Tight End. The Refs do no need to identify him as eligible. It’s a waste of time. Harbaugh was just too stupid to realize what was going on considering they had done it twice already on the same drive before he freaked out over the last one.

    They announced who the ineligible player was. You can hear it over the broadcast even with Collinsworth talking. It is not the refs fault if Baltimore isn’t paying attention. Are they supposed to trot over the the sideline every time to personally tell Harbaugh they dont have to cover 34 even though they said EXACTLY that over the PA to the entire stadium.

  41. What a great game, very fortunate to attend, so much excitement. Met many Baltimore fans that were a blast to talk trash with at the game, very intelligent. Wish they would post here on PFT instead of the retread idiots we get.

    If you were at the game, you could actually hear the ref announce Verren as ineligible and he said “don’t cover him” one time, hahaha.

    I was actually pissed he said don’t cover him at the time.

    BAL has played some fantastic games vs. Pats over the years, this one was no different.

  42. I was actually at game. the second time the Pats did it the ref actually said number 34 is ineligible do not co
    .him. I said to the guy next to me I’ve never heard that before

  43. lol the dummy Mavens had 3 chances to adjust and couldn’t figure it out. Duhhhhh

    Who was responsible to cover the faux left tackle from the Balt D front 7?
    Horrible coaching on Whiny Harbaughs part.
    Really???? 3 chances to read and react to the formation? And what do we get from the Balt braintrust….. whining and crying

    I love all the haters whining and sour grapes, it is nectar of the Gods…the football Gods continue to smile on The New England patriots.

    hate one crybabies….hate on

  44. You certainly couldn’t hear an announcement on TV, really if they do this or make an ineligible player eligible there should be an official’s time out while the information is properly communicated to the Defence.

  45. @rmc1995,

    All 10 other players (besides the ball carrier) on the offensive side is always “eligible” for a lateral, including lineman. So your point is moot because on every single play, if a lateral is thrown, everyone on the side of the offense is eligible, including the lineman.

  46. I’m a cold blooded Ravens rand and it took me all weekend to figure out exactly what Harbaugh was pissed about. I can see why now. No need for me to get into nuance here but great game .nevertheless.

    Like the late great GW Bush would say. “For me twice, well ya never again.”

  47. The reason why Belichick is hated is because he completely contradicts the “Soccer Mom-Everyone gets a trophy” society we live in. He plays to cut your throat out. He’s the football equivilent of William T. Sherman.

    My guess is he’d be the first choice of any NFL fan to coach their team because he should be.

  48. Just like a talented mast mind thief or a skilled accountant looking for loopholes in the tax law to benefit their pocket book. I am a big believer in the ‘spirit of the rules’. Not sure BB should be lauded for an innovative scheme. Win going toe to toe. Smoke and mirrors man, smoke and mirrors.

  49. @chinoloco93

    If that is the case, my point is hardly moot and way more relavant. An ineligable offensive lineman split out is no real threat to catch the ball behind the line of scrimmage or run an end around. If the running back is the ineligible receiver he is still a threat to catch a lateral or run an end around. You can’t simply ignore him if he steps back and raises his hands to catch the ball as the writer of this article indicated. He isn’t a benign decoy.

  50. Not sure why the Ravens didn’t run the ball at the end on their final drive. Not sure why they felt the need to force a throw to the end zone with around 1:15 left and at least one if not two timeouts left. That INT killed the chance to win, not the Pats trickery.

  51. desperately scouring through rulebook intricacies to avoid lining up man vs man is not my definition of a genius.

  52. Nothing like resorting to desperation to win. I hate the Steelers, but I respect them. They line up man to man and punch you in the mouth and give it their best shot. If “The Genius” was that good of a coach, he could win hat to hat. There’s a reason why other teams in the league hate the Pats and don’t respect them……

  53. The world according to Harbaugh —

    Using a legal play he didn’t anticipate: illegal.
    Having a player knee Brady in the head after the whistle: just the “Ravens being the Ravens”

  54. Bill’s next trick, he’s going to smear the ball with dog crap on kickoffs

    Tried that 11-16-05 against Miami.

    Gave up a 37 yard return, never implemented again.

  55. FoozieGrooler says:
    Jan 12, 2015 12:40 PM

    For Bill’s next trick, he’s going to smear the ball with dog crap on kickoffs.
    Hey, it’s not against the rules, right?

    “I don’t know coach, I’m not really on board with that”


  56. I was at the game the refs said 34 is ineligible do not cover him. Stupid ravens still covered him. First time I get it, but second and third time Ravens should have figured it out, especially when ref tells you not to cover 34 he is not an eligible receiver.

  57. Expect the Colts to try something like this on Sunday at a crucial moment, if just to get them to waste a time out. The Pats defense better be ready.

  58. John Harbaugh behaved badly during the game and in his press conference after the game. He did not need to walk out on the field and yell at the Patriots coaching staff, he was not “forced” to draw a flag. He is supposed to have trusted coaches upstairs watching the game who are capable of assessing the offense and advising Harbaugh and the defense on what to do; if these coaches are not able to advise John to take a time out then they should be replaced. If John is too much of a prima donna to listen to other coaches, then well…he should be replaced…

    I was at the game Saturday and with each of these plays, the ref announced “Number 34 is reporting as an ineligible player” or “Number 47 is reporting as an ineligible player” as I believe the Patriots flipped this between Vereen and “Hooman”. I remember after the second time the announcement was made, I asked the people around me if that means the player cannot catch the ball, and they all said, “Yes, he cannot run downfield and catch a pass, he needs to stay behind the line until the ball is thrown”. The third time the ref said “Number 34 is reporting as ineligible…you do not need to cover #34” Very specific…Because Vereen stepped back and put his hands up to make it appear that he was going to receive the ball is of no consequence. The Ravens defense should have paid attention to the refs and not followed Vereen.

    This play is simply like an offensive or defensive lineman reporting as an Eligible receiver. The Patriots did this all the time with Mike Vrabel and every time he lined up on the goal line and reported as an eligible receiver he got a touchdown — EVERY SINGLE TIME. The Texans have done it this season with JJ Watt and each time he has caught a touchdown…should the defense be told “Okay, you need to cover #50 (Vrabel)? Of course not (or maybe yes, since Vrabel caught a touchdown — EVERY SINGLE TIME). This is the same type of play situation but in reverse…

    John Harbaugh’s press conference disappointed me. While I am not a Ravens fan, I have always found him to be thoughtful and intelligent and I have thought if I could not have BB as my teams coach, I would like John Harbaugh as a coach. Now I will need to rethink that…I do not remember when Bill has ever blamed a loss on anyone other than himself. When the Patriots lose, Bill says “we have to coach better, we have to play better, we have to prepare our team better”. When Miami pulled out the Wild Cat all those years ago and crushed the Patriots in Foxborough, he said “we need to coach better” He did not say “the Dolphins got away with a deceptive play no one has ever seen before”. Instead he went back to work and the next time the Patriots took the field they were prepared to defend against the Wild Cat offense. John Harbaugh should accept that his team lost because they did not play their best game on Saturday and move on…

  59. Not only were the Ravens properly notified, the ref told them NOT to cover # 34 specifically. What more do they want? Geesh!

  60. I watched the game pretty closely and never saw a ref give the eligible receiver signal. Maybe he did and it wasn’t on the screen but they usually announce it to so I would have heard it.

    They did, but NBC didn’t mix it into the broadcast audio. It only leaks through on the ambient noise channel. You can only hear it by turning the volume up and ignoring AM and CC.

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