Staked with a 14-point second-half deficit, the Patriots dug deep into their goodie bag of tricks to beat the Ravens Saturday night.
New England scored a touchdown on a double-pass trick play. Another touchdown drive was made on the back of some questionable formations.
In the end, the tricks made a huge 14-point difference in New England's 35-31 victory.
"They just used all their trickery," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "They used all they had to get that victory."
It began with the Patriots down 14 points early in the third quarter. They were using just four offensive linemen and splitting another player, running back Shane Vereen, out wide. But they declared Vereen ineligible, as if he were an offensive lineman lined up as a receiver.
It's something Head Coach John Harbaugh said nobody's ever done before, and it had the Ravens defenders and referees confused. He said the referees weren't allowing ample time to identify the eligible receivers.
Amidst the confusion, the Patriots hit two completions of 16, 11 and 14 yards, respectively, to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and wide receiver Julian Edelman. That's 41 yards on an 80-yard drive.
Harbaugh ran onto the field to talk to the referees after one play and it resulted in a 5-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Patriots scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski two plays later to cut Baltimore's lead to seven points.
Harbaugh said he had to take the penalty just to get the referee's attention.
"[I]t's a substitution type of a trick type of a thing," Harbaugh said after the game. "They don't give you the chance to make the proper substitutions and things like that. It's not something that anybody's ever done before. The league will look at that type of thing and I'm sure that they'll make some adjustments."
While the referees announced that Vereen was ineligible, they did so just seconds before quarterback Tom Brady would hurry up and snap the ball, which didn't allow Baltimore to get the right players in the game.
"That was where it was clearly deception," Harbaugh said. "So the officials told me after that they'd give us the opportunity to [substitute], which they probably should have done during that series but they didn't really understand what was happening."
The Patriots had a different viewpoint after the game.
"Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out," quarterback Tom Brady said. "[The NFL] will look at it then. I don't know what's deceiving about that. [They] should figure it out."
"We had six eligible receivers on the field, but only five were eligible," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said. "The one who was ineligible reported that he was ineligible. No different than on the punt team or a situation like that."
The Patriots used more trickery on the third play of their next offensive drive, which tied the game at 28 late in the third quarter.
This time, there's no controversy around it. It's just a normal, yet rarely seen trick play that worked at the right time.
Brady threw the ball behind the line of scrimmage to Edelman, a wide receiver who last threw a pass during his college days as a quarterback at Kent State.
It looked like a wide receiver screen, and the Ravens defense flocked to make the tackle. Only this time, Edelman step up and threw a perfect pass to wide receiver Danny Amendola, who was wide-open behind cornerback Rashaan Melvin for a 51-yard catch and run touchdown.
Belichick said they hadn't run the play since 2001. Brady said it's been in their playbook all season, and they were just waiting to call it.
The Ravens' defensive call unfortunately made it even easier with a blitz that left one fewer defensive back in coverage. It was the worst of timing all the way around.
"You've got to be aware of all trick plays," Melvin said. "At that point in the game, it was a great time to call a trick play and it worked. As a defensive back, you've always got to make sure your head is in the game and you don't get beat deep."