The fall-out from the dramatic NFL championship games on Sunday has continued with claims that the New England Patriots used deflated footballs during their AFC title decider with the Indianapolis Colts.
The patriots ran out easy 45-7 winners and quarterback Tom Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards. But doubts have now been raised about the balls he was using on Sunday night and the NFL is investigating.
'DeflateGate' as it has inevitably been dubbed, was sparked by veteran Indianapolis journalist Bob Kravitz on Twitter.
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The New York Times explains that in NFL games each team has at least 12 balls that it has prepared according to the needs of its starting quarterback, and the balls are switched depending on who is in possession. The regulations state that balls must be inflated to 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch.
However, the NFL has confirmed that it is looking to determine whether the balls were properly inflated. Underinflated balls have more give and are easier for a quarterback to grip, particularly in wet conditions such as those on Sunday night.
Brady laughed off the claims as "ridiculous" on Monday and Kravitz admits that even if the claims were true they would not have affected the result.
"The Patriots are going to the Super Bowl, the Colts are going home," he writes on WTHR-TV. "[But] for the time being, there's a cloud of suspicion hanging over Belichick and the Patriots."
The Patriots do have a history however, and in 2008 forfeited draft picks and were fined for illegally filming opponents. "This could be much ado about nothing, but 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," says Sports Illustrated.
The latest claims are in danger of overshadowing events in the other match, the NFC title decider, which saw the Seattle Seahawks stage a remarkable comeback from 19-7 down against the Green Bay Packers with less than three minutes remaining. A Seahwaks touchdown made it 19-14 before the defending Super Bowl champions immediately won the ball back and scored again to take the lead, and added a two-point conversion to make it 19-22.
The Packers were left with a minute to rescue the game and managed to score a long-range field goal in the final seconds to even the scores and send the game into overtime.
But the Seahawks won the match with another touchdown in added time to make the score 22-28, with 24 points scored in a breathless finale. The Seattle Times called it "one of the greatest games in NFL playoff history".
The Seahawks will face the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona on 1 February.
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