The Patriots pulled out all the stops to take down the Ravens in the divisional-round of the playoffs.
New England’s trickery became a big talking point after the game, and Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh was penalized during the contest for voicing his frustrations to the referees about how they were officiating the Patriots' never-before-seen offensive formations.
Harbaugh was asked about the deception plays after the game and again during Tuesday's season ending press conference, where he explained that his frustrations were with how the officials initially handled the plays.
"My thoughts are the same as they were during the game and after the game. It was about the mechanics of the officiating," Harbaugh said. "I never had an issue with the formation. I never even brought that up. It wasn't even about the formation at all."
The formation from the Patriots was a four-man offensive line, instead of the standard five-man line. New England would then line up a running back at wide receiver, but make him an ineligible target.
The confusion occurred because the Ravens needed time to address the substitutions and locate the ineligible player. NFL rules mandate that the defense has time to account for substitution that the offense makes, and the Ravens weren't getting time to makes those adjustments.
"I had a chance to talk to [head referee] Bill Vinovich during the game, and he addressed it. And he said that was right," Harbaugh said. "There's a certain timing that goes with that, in terms of the referee getting back in position to referee the game. The ball was being snapped so quickly that he didn't have a chance to do that. Plus, the other interesting thing is that the signal for an eligible receiver and an ineligible receiver is the same. So it's a little difficult to determine what the officials actually signal in the heat of battle when it's done that quickly.
"Bill was great about it, and he said he would slow it down. I think he went over and told their sideline the same thing, and we didn't see it after that."
The formations from the Patriots were a new wrinkle that Harbaugh said no team had ever used previously. The confusion on the drive led to a touchdown for the Patriots to help them erase a two-score second-half deficit, but they didn't use those formations the rest of the game.
"In no way did I think it determined the outcome of the game," Harbaugh said.
After the game, Harbaugh reached out to the NFL's Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino, and some tweaks to how officials handle those formations could be coming.
"Talking with the league after, since then, Dean [Blandino] has told me it's being looked at," Harbaugh said. "The mechanics are being looked at, and some changes will have to be made."