“I believe 100 percent we have followed every rule to the letter.” These are the words that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave to the media in his impromptu press conference last week as he responded to the allegations surrounding Deflate-Gate. Following the New England Patriots’ 45-7 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts in the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game on January 18, the NFL revealed plans to investigate whether or not the footballs used by the Patriots during the game were purposely deflated to provide an illegal advantage for them.
The NFL requires that all footballs be inflated from 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch (PSI). About two hours before game time, head referee Walt Anderson inspected and cleared all 12 balls as legal to be used in the game and properly inflated. At halftime, with the Patriots leading 17-7, the balls were re-checked and it was discovered that 11 of the 12 league approved balls were under-inflated. The NFL issued the Patriots 12 new balls to be used in the second half which were properly inflated. The NFL has hired private investigator Ted Wells, known for investigating the bullying incident with the Miami Dolphins last season, to discover the reasoning behind the deflated balls used in the first half.
Of course, the Patriots are already in the spotlight this week as they will represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLIX as they take on the defending champion Seattle Seahawks this Sunday. Belichick, in his Friday press conference said, “I’m embarrassed to talk about the amount of time I’ve put into this, relative to the challenge in front of us,” obviously referring to the need to prepare for the task of winning his fourth Super Bowl title as a head coach. Belichick has been highly criticized in the media this week for dropping seemingly inaccurate science references as to why the balls that his team used became deflated because of the cold and wet conditions. Science guru Bill Nye “The Science Guy” even made an appearance on ABC News during which he showed viewers how Belichick’s explanation simply made no sense at all.
The NFL has already interviewed about 40 people involved with this situation as they try to piece together the puzzle that is this mess. Wells said that the investigation is ongoing and most likely will not be concluded for several more weeks as many of the NFL interviews will be conducted on the Patriots personnel and players who will not be available until after the Super Bowl is over. The latest news to surface is that a Patriots employee who is responsible for handling the balls prior to the game, was caught on video bringing the footballs into an unspecified room after the balls were inspected but before they were brought out onto the field for warmups. This individual has been labeled as a “person of interest” but it is unknown if he is responsible for the balls being deflated.
In his weekly press conference, quarterback Tom Brady denied any tampering with the balls on his part and went so far as to say that his “feelings were hurt” that he was even accused of being involved in cheating. Brady, who has gone on record in previous years saying that he prefers the ball under-inflated, seemed to do perfectly fine in the second half of the AFC Championship with the properly inflated balls as they outscored the Colts 28-0 in the second half.
Neither the Seattle Seahawks nor the New England Patriots seem to believe that Deflate-Gate will have any major effect on the game this Sunday night. The Patriots have always been thought of as one of the most prepared teams that mentally beat you before the game even starts with their laser-like focus and preparation. The Seahawks defense is led by their strong secondary, which frustrated Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the National Football Conference (NFC) Championship game, forcing him to throw two interceptions while the team put up just 19 points. This should lead to a very even matchup in Glendale this weekend.
We will not know until the end of February if the Patriots are guilty of any wrongdoing. The Super Bowl will go on and a winner will be crowned, but many believe that if the Patriots take home the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night, their playoff run and season could be tainted forever. The Patriots take on the Seahawks Sunday night in Glendale, Arizona at 6:30 p.m. on NBC in Super Bowl XLIX.