The NFL has now officially declared the “trick” formation used by the New England Patriots in the playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens illegal.
The formation was used by Patriots coach Bill Belichick who inserted running back Shane Vereen as a lineman in a game with the Baltimore Ravens last January. Vereen’s size, jersey number, and positioning wide from the four other lineman confused the Ravens and set up a Rob Gronkowski touchdown reception to the put the Patriots back just 28-21. New England ultimately won the classic comeback 34-31.
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh immediately denounced the formation as “illegal,” “clearly deceptive,” and a “trick.”
The trick was to throw the opposing team into confusion on just who to cover during the play. The confusion rattled the Ravens so that the team and its coach officially demanded that the NFL make a ruling on the formation.
At last, it appears that the NFL now agrees with Harbaugh that the sneaky formation is unfair.
Before the owners meetings, competition committee co-chair Jeff Fisher noted that in fact several teams had complained about the formation, enough so that the league had to make a ruling. “Unless we had some guidelines in place, this thing may get out of hand,” he said.
Going forward the move will be considered an illegal substitution and a 5-yard penalty will be levied on any team attempting the formation.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com