John Harbaugh said he'd never seen anything like it. For three plays in the third quarter of the Ravens-Patriots AFC divisional playoff game on Saturday, New England went with only four offensive linemen instead of the traditional five. By the time the Ravens' coach realized what was going on, he was so furious that he complained to the officials that his team didn't have the proper time to substitute his own players to respond to the Patriots' unique alignment.
"It's a substitution type of a trick type of a thing," Harbaugh said after the Patriots' 35-31 victory. "So they don't give you the opportunity, they don't give you the 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."
Harbaugh was so upset with the officiating on the plays that he walked several yards onto the field and drew an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
"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 the chance to figure out who was lined up where, and that was the deception part of it," he said. "And that was where it was clearly deception."
Harbaugh believes the Patriots should have been penalized for the "deceptive" substitutions on the plays.
On one play, running back Shane Vereen didn't tell the referee that he was an ineligible receiver until just before the snap. The Patriots scored a touchdown on the drive, cutting the Ravens' lead to 28-21.
"It's not something that anybody has ever done before,'' Harbaugh said. "They're an illegal type of a thing and I'm sure that [the league will] make some adjustments and things like that.''
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady scoffed at Harbaugh's complaints.
"Maybe those guys gotta study the rulebook and figure it out," he said. "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."