Possible Deflategate Sequel? Patriots Players Accused of Using Illegal Kicking Footballs in Flashback to 2015 Scandal Against Chiefs

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During the Chiefs-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium in Week 15, both Harrison Butker and Chad Ryland encountered kicking issues in the first half, which now seems to have a clear explanation.

Contrary to any speculated wind conditions affecting the kicks, it appears the problem stemmed from improperly inflated kicking balls (K-balls), as reported by Mark Daniels of MassLive.com.

According to Daniels’ sources, the K-balls were discovered to be under-inflated by more than two pounds per square inch (PSI) during the game’s initial half.

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Multiple sources informed MassLive that these balls were measuring around 11 PSI, notably below the standard threshold of 13.5 PSI. The Patriots brought attention to the officials about the potential under-inflation, and at halftime, the discrepancy was confirmed and rectified by reinflating the balls.

Importantly, this oversight seemed to affect both teams equally, ensuring that neither side gained an unfair competitive advantage due to this mistake.

Notably, it doesn’t seem that either team deliberately tampered with the balls; instead, the responsibility for the under-inflation appears to lie with the officials.

Referred to humorously as “Deflategate 2,” Daniels detailed the customary protocol for K-balls, involving officials unboxing six new balls intended exclusively for kicking purposes, weighing them 2 hours and 45 minutes before kickoff. However, this procedure was evidently overlooked on the Sunday in question.

One source indicated uncertainty about when the error occurred, emphasizing that it wasn’t due to leakage. However, the issue was addressed and resolved in the second half.

The impact of the under-inflated balls was evident as Butker missed his first field goal of the 2023 NFL season partially due to this discrepancy. Both Butker and Ryland expressed frustration with their misses but showed improved performance after halftime.

Additionally, punters demonstrated enhanced kicking ability post-intermission, with all involved parties experiencing increased distances in kickoffs and punts as a result of rectifying the ball inflation issue.

Situation Kickoffs Kickoff distance Punts Punt distance
First half 5 64.4 3 45.3
Second half 5 66.6 6 51.8

The impact of properly inflating the K-balls during the game was evident, showing a notable difference of two yards per kickoff and 6.5 yards per punt. While the data might be limited due to the small sample size, these statistics strongly suggest the significant effect of rectifying the under-inflated balls.

Both teams have valid reasons to feel aggrieved by this error, especially Harrison Butker, whose perfect season was disrupted due to the under-inflated ball affecting his missed field goal.

However, it appears that neither the Chiefs nor the Patriots are responsible for the condition of the K-balls. The blame seems to fall squarely on the officials, who seemingly overlooked a crucial step in their pregame procedure, resulting in repercussions for both sides during the game.

Regarding the potential fallout from this incident, it’s likely that the NFL will initiate a review to investigate what led to the mistake made by Shawn Hochuli’s officiating crew. There might be repercussions such as punishment or a downgrade for the crew involved, although they are currently scheduled to officiate a significant game between the Cowboys and Dolphins in Week 16.

Comparatively, the repercussions of the Patriots’ Deflategate scandal involved a four-game suspension for Tom Brady, a hefty $1 million fine, and the forfeiture of two draft picks.

As things stand, there’s no indication that either the Chiefs or the Patriots tampered with the balls deliberately. Unless new evidence emerges, it seems that New England fans can be relieved that this incident may not escalate into a controversy similar to the original Deflategate circus.