John Harbaugh still seems bothered by the AFC divisional round game in 2015. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)
FOXBORO — The Patriots and Ravens will meet Monday night for the first time since they met in the AFC divisional round in 2015.
New England won the game 35-31, but the biggest talker following the game was a few ineligible receiver plays when the Patriots had more receivers on the field that were eligible and made one of them ineligible.
This caught the Ravens off-guard and helped the Patriots come back from a 14-point deficit.
After the game Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the plays were “clearly deception” and was upset the Ravens didn’t get a chance to see where the ineligible players were lined up before the snap.
Thursday, on a conference call with the New England media, CSNNE.com’s Tom E. Curran brought up how a few weeks ago the Ravens held every player on the Bengals during a punt play before taking a safety to ensure the game ended before the ensuing free kick.
Curran asked how that play was different than what the Patriots did in the playoffs a few years back.
“Well, that is something — I don’t even want to get into all that,” Harbaugh said. “That’s all been hashed out. As far as that goes, I mean, I believe what I believe and I think that’s all been proven to be right, but the point about that is that’s been talked about. That’s been looked at. That tactic has been used by punt teams for 20 years. It’s nothing new. It’s nothing that hasn’t been addressed before by officials and by the competition committee.
“As a matter in fact, after we did it in the Super Bowl, my brother [Jim Harbaugh] brought it up and I supported him to change it — to extend it on special teams plays and the competition committee and the coaches on the competition committee and Dean [Blandino] didn’t want to look at it back then. They had a chance to change it four years ago. So everyone knew about it and it wasn’t a surprise to anybody, so it didn’t create an unfair advantage for anybody.”
Curran brought up how the Patriots’ play was ran earlier that season by the Titans and also by Nick Saban with Alabama. He also noted Harbaugh’s comments after the game inferred he was discrediting the Patriots’ win.
“Like I said, I don’t want to get into that, and that was not the intent,” he said. “If you go back and read my comments at the time and the tone of it, anybody that takes it that way is taking it the wrong way. That was not the point at all. The point was you had an eligible receiver that wasn’t identified and an ineligible receiver that wasn’t identified as such and the official had no way to identify that for the defense.
“They never addressed it before so there was no signal or any other way to do that and that was something that was addressed the very next week when they put in a method to identify an ineligible number as an eligible player. It’s all technical stuff. If somebody wants to look at it a certain way, that’s not my concern.”
It was then brought to Harbaugh’s attention that the referees announced over the microphone who was ineligible and who wasn’t, which Harbaugh said didn’t matter and there needed to be more.
“That’s not something that had every been gone over,” he said. “Players were never taught don’t cover a player and when you’re on the field you can’t hear that microphone. That’s not something you can hear on the field and not something you’re even listening for. There is a signal. They tap the player on the shoulder. They brush the numbers to say that an ineligible player is now eligible. They had no method of doing that for the opposite and they put it in the next week where they tap the shoulder then make the safe sign and that meant that the eligible number was no ineligible, so the fact that they changed that the next week was a good thing and I think it made it more fair for the defense.”
By all accounts Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Harbaugh have a good relationship, but it’s instances like this that lead you to believe there is some hint of animosity between the two organizations.