Coach John Harbaugh says the New England Patriots' offensive substitutions were clearly "deceptive" during the Ravens' 35-31 playoff loss in New England. (Baltimore Sun video)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took the high road Monday, a detour from his initial reaction Saturday to Ravens coach John Harbaugh complaining about the Patriots' formations and substitutions during the teams' divisional playoff game.
Harbaugh said he intentionally drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when the Patriots lined up in a four offensive linemen configuration that confused the Ravens about which players were eligible receivers. That aided a scoring drive in the Patriots' 35-31 win at Gillette Stadium.
"Let me say first, I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and obviously that team is one of the toughest teams we face," Brady said during his weekly radio appearance Monday on Boston station WEEI. "It's always a tough matchup. It was a play that we liked and we thought would work. We had a couple versions of it. It's kind of an alert play for our team and we made them figure out what to do.
"I think that's what it looked like to me. We had to execute it, we had to make the appropriate calls and block it, and make the plays, and I was proud of us. That was a good weapon for us. That's part of football. You have to prepare for everything."
After the game Saturday, Brady took exception to Harbaugh's complaints and wasn't nearly as diplomatic.
"Maybe those guys got to study the rule book and figure it out," Brady said Saturday. "We obviously knew what we were doing, and we made some pretty important plays. It was a real good weapon for us. Maybe we'll have something in store next week. I don't know what's deceiving about that. [The Ravens] should figure it out."
The Patriots used the formation three times, completing three passes for 41 yards on a drive that was capped by a 5-yard touchdown catch by Rob Gronkowski.
NFL vice president of football communications Michael Signora told The Baltimore Sun in an email Sunday that "Everything was legal from a formation and reporting standpoint."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked whether the league should look into how he aligns his players during his Monday press conference.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Belichick. "I mean, that happens all the time. You come in on a punt team, ineligible guys report as eligible. They line up as guards and tackles on the punt team. The center, the center's numbers in the NFL are eligible players that report ineligible. Then they cover punts. We've seen it on offense.
"We see it particularly a lot on special teams, the kicking game, punting game, not so much on the field goals because you have your linemen protecting there. But I'd say it happens every game on the punt team. You're allowed to do that. I don't really understand what the question is. If you want to talk about the rules, you should talk to the NFL rules people about that. They'll tell you about it."
Harbaugh weighed in on the Patriots' trickery Saturday night after the game.
"It's a substitution type of a trick type of thing," a composed Harbaugh said during his postgame press conference. "So, they don't give you the opportunity. They don't give you a 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 and things like that.
"We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were, because what they were doing was, they would announce the eligible player, and then time was taken, and they would go over and snap the ball before we even had a chance to figure out who was lined up where. And that was the deception part of it. That was clearly deception."