With the Patriots under investigation for using deflated balls in a blowout win over the Colts, another vague — and far more confusing — accusation of ball deflation has emerged.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS, “[s]ome of the Baltimore Ravens believe kicking balls used in their playoff game at New England were slightly under-inflated.” La Canfora also writes that “sources said some on Baltimore’s sideline believed there may have been irregularities with the kicking balls,” and that because “Baltimore’s kicking and punting units were not getting their normal depth and distance, and some believed the balls they were using may have been deflated.”
The story doesn’t contain much more detail than that. It also fails to address the fact that kicking balls are handled far differently than other balls.
Back in 1999, the NFL took the kicking balls out of the hands of the teams. Current rules require the referee to open six brand-new footballs before every game, marking them as kicking balls. Those balls are used separately and apart from the balls used by each team’s offense.
So it’s not as if an underinflated ball possibly used by New England’s offense in the divisional playoff game accidentally landed in the hands of Baltimore’s long snapper or holder, which a reader could mistakenly conclude based on a story that doesn’t mention the separate handling of kicking balls. If the kicking balls were underinflated, they were underinflated for both teams, because they come from the same stash of balls.
Also, it was considerably colder on January 10 for the Ravens-Patriots game (officially, 20 degrees at kickoff), more likely resulting in a natural pressure reduction under the ideal gas law (PV=nRT for the nerds, like me) than on Sunday, when it officially was 51 degrees at kickoff in Foxboro.
Perhaps most importantly, the Ravens have shown no reluctance to articulate possible violations of the rules, as evidenced by coach John Harbaugh’s complaints about New England’s ineligible-eligible receiver trick from the same game. If the Ravens believed that the Patriots sabotaged kicking balls and then ensured that lower-pressure balls from the same allotment of kicking balls were used by the Ravens and not by the Patriots, the Ravens surely would have said something at the time.
Saying something now via an anonymous leak to a reporter who failed to provide much (or any) context or to apply much (or any) common sense won’t move the needle at a time when it’s easy to pile on the Patriots. If La Canfora’s report is accurate (and that could be a very large “if”), the Ravens should make a complaint that the kicking balls were underinflated.