In each of their last two games the New England Patriots have had wild success at confusing defenses by playing around with the eligible receiver rules.
In a wrinkle that the NFL had never seen before, the Patriots had an eligible receiver line up in the traditional offensive tackle position while having a different player declare him ineligible and line up as a wide receiver.
The defence forgot to cover the receiver disguised as a tackle, and it went for a completed pass:
This formation infuriated the Ravens in the divisional round and worked for a touchdown in the AFC title game. It works so well because the defence gets confused about who’s eligible and who’s ineligible. By rule, the ref has to announce the number of the ineligible player right before the ball, but the defence still only has a few seconds to identify him on the field and get lined up.
According to Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, the NFL has instituted new procedures for the Super Bowl that will help the defence identify who’s eligible and who’s not.
Carroll said at his press conference on Thursday that the refs will point to the ineligible player, not just announce his number over the public address system.
“That’s a new thing. They have never done that before,” he said.
Here’s his full explanation (transcript via the Seattle Times):
“They’re going to have a new signal that designates when a player with an ineligible number will be eligible — that’s the same. But, when an eligible number is now ineligible, they’re going to make a new declaration to the players on the field so that you’ll clearly identify that. I know the league is absolutely committed to getting that right and doing that well. The Patriots have brought that to the forefront because they have been using some stuff like that lately. We’ve been preparing for it every day because we don’t want to be caught in mishandling on our end. It’s really on us to see it. The officials do what they do, but we still have to find it because it could happen like it did to the Colts. We’re very much in tune with it. It has just been part of the preparation so it’s not a big deal to us now.”
“The new signal is the referee will point to the player that has the eligible number and he’ll signal that he is not eligible. That’s the new thing. They have never done that before.”
Carroll said the NFL told him about this after he called for clarification.
The Patriots formation worked so well against the Ravens because no one was expecting it. On Super Bowl Sunday, the entire world will be expecting it.
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