The NFL is investigating whether the Patriots cheated by using under-inflated footballs in the game that qualified the New England team for their sixth Super Bowl appearance, reported Bob Kravitz of local Indianapolis station WHTR:
The Patriots dominated the Colts throughout the game, and with or without deflated footballs, they almost certainly would have won. The Patriots will face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX Feb. 1 in Phoenix.
But not without controversy.
While the result of the game is expected to stand, the Patriots could face a fine or lose future draft picks if an investigation finds they under-inflated footballs.
Deflated footballs are easier to throw, catch, and grip, especially in inclement weather, as was the case Sunday night in Foxborough, Mass., where heavy rain pummeled Gillette Stadium throughout the game.
According to the NFL rule book, footballs are required to be inflated with 12.5-13.5 pounds of air, and home teams must give all game balls to the league two hours and 15 minutes prior to kickoff to be inspected.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady dismissed the charges as "ridiculous."
"I think I've heard it all," Mr. Brady told WEEI Radio Monday morning. "It's ridiculous.... That's the last of my worries. I don't even respond to stuff like this."
But it wouldn't be the first time the Patriots – a team with a reputation for on- and off-field shenanigans – have been accused of foul play.
In 2007, the team faced stiff penalties for illegally spying on opponents by videotaping their practices, a controversy that became known as "spygate."
After an investigation, the NFL found that Patriots had videotaped opponents between 2002 and 2007. As a result, the Patriots lost their 2008 first-round draft choice, coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team was fined $250,000. It was the largest financial sanction against a coach in NFL history, reported Sports Illustrated.
"People like to pile on the Pats for their off-field, pre-game shenanigans and this won't be any different should the NFL find any inconsistencies with the way they handled their footballs against the Colts," CBSSports.com's Will Brinson reports.
With good reason, adds SI.
"Given their role in the Spygate scandal a few years back, the Pats are never going to get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to any allegations of subterfuge."