The New England Patriots will no longer be able to use ineligible receivers and four offensive linemen against the Baltimore Ravens.
On Wednesday, during the NFL meetings in Arizona, the league owners voted to ban the tactic featured prominently during New England’s playoff run, the Ravens announced.
The new rule requires a player with an eligible receiver’s number to line up inside the tackle box if declared ineligible, and if said player lines up incorrectly, a five-yard penalty will be assessed for illegal substitution.
The change was proposed by former NFL player and Hall of Fame head coach John Madden, who is now a member of the league’s competition committee.
It all stems from the divisional round versus Baltimore. New England subbed out right guard Josh Kline while tight end Michael Hoomanawanui entered, and thenceforth, the personnel adjustments caused confusion along the Ravens’ side of the ball.
Hoomanawanui or halfback Shane Vereen reported as eligible or ineligible, at tackle or out wide, forcing Baltimore to double-check with officials as to who was a viable threat. The results netted 41 yards on 3-of-3 passing, with a 15-yard penalty against Ravens head coach John Harbaugh added on following the last completion.
And by the end of that third-quarter drive, the Patriots had cut the deficit to seven.
“We ran it three times, a couple different looks,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained in his press conference after New England’s comeback victory. “We had six eligible receivers on the field, but only five were eligible. The one who was ineligible reported that he was ineligible. No different than on the punt team or a situation like that.”
The Patriots deployed the ineligible-receiver method once more in the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts – prior to left tackle Nate Solder’s touchdown catch as a tight end – but the results came up empty.
Now, there will be no more results from it.
Belichick was asked about the impending rule change during the AFC coaches’ breakfast on Tuesday, before its finality on Wednesday, and alluded to a point he made two months prior.
“It would affect a lot of other plays – the spread punt formation and stuff like that,” Belichick said. “Whatever the rule is, it is.”