Full disclosure, I am a Patriots fan.
This ain’t looking good. 11 of 12 balls supplied by the Patriots were significantly underinflated when the NFL examined the balls.
Citing sources, Mortensen reports that of the 12 footballs weighed by officials before Sunday’s AFC Championship game, 11 of them came in under-inflated by two pounds of air (PSI) when weighed either after or during the Patriots’ 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
In soccer, balls are supposed to be inflated to between 8.5 PSI to 14 PSI. Typically, the higher the level of play, the harder the ball. One of the little tricks referees use to control games between teams that don’t like each other is to pump the balls to be rock solid. The objective in that case is to make the ball move more as a heavily inflated ball requires far more skill to properly control on the first touch. Tough control on the first touch means the ball is moving into space more often, the ball moving into space more often means players are less likely to be at each others’ feet, and players less likely to be at each others’ feet means fewer chances for fouls and escalation.
During a course of a soccer game, a well made ball that is fresh out of the box will lose some weight. At high level competition, the home team will supply between five and seven balls that the referees inspected and approved. Each ball will be kicked at least one hundred times during the course of play including a couple of rockets and a few punts. A good ball in good conditions between two teams that are playing hard will often drop a pound of PSI after ninety minutes of play.
Football’s offensive game balls are not subject to kicking (the K-balls are seperate) and there are only on average 120 to 140 non special teams plays per game. Each ball is only getting used for ten to fifteen plays. There are three sets of forces that could put pressure on the ball. The first is gripping and squeezing force from the running back and ball carrier. The next is snatching force by the receiver in the act of the catch, and the final is drop to the ground force on an incompletion. The first two sets of forces on the ball are fairly violent but not extreme. Ten to fifteen incidences of these forces should not deflate most balls that are used in a professional or college game.
No way in hell did eleven of twelve balls all naturally deflate during the course of play. I could see one or two losing a pound or two of pressure, and then another couple balls getting a few ounces light, and most of the balls hanging out at the bottom end of permissible if this was a random event, but not eleven out of twelve balls consistently being underweight.
Did it decide the course of a 45-7 game? Hell no, but it was a small tilting of the odds in favor the Patriots where it might have mattered in a 13-7 game.