McDaniels defends offensive sets

ByMike Reiss ESPN logo
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

PHOENIX -- New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels defended the team's usage of ineligible receivers in its two playoff games, a hot-button topic that has led to some former coaches, such as Tony Dungy, to call for the tactic to be stopped.

Dungy, in an interview on NBC Sports Network, had called the Patriots' tactic "nothing but an intent to deceive and they are doing it very well." Current Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that his issue was with the officials allowing a defense to match up once an ineligible receiver is announced.

During Super Bowl XLIX media availability Wednesday, McDaniels was asked a question about up-tempo offense as it related to deception and using ineligible receivers, and he interrupted the interviewer to make his point.

"One thing about that that I'd like to clear up is we didn't do any of those things [with ineligible receivers] without huddling," McDaniels said. "When we did those things the last couple of games, we huddled every time we did it with the ineligible player. We substituted, we huddled, we declared him ineligible, the official declared him ineligible, and then we lined up."

The Patriots first used ineligible receivers on three plays in their divisional-round win over Harbaugh's Ravens, specifically by declaring tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and running back Shane Vereen ineligible, and gained 41 yards through the air to help turn the momentum of the game. Harbaugh also picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing with officials about the tactic.

McDaniels detailed his thoughts on the issue Wednesday.

"I think we've only done it five times all year; we've huddled every time," he said. "We've reported every time ineligible and once we did that we broke the huddle, we lined up and we ran the play. We didn't try to hurry. We didn't try to do anything that was deceptive in that manner. I think it was unique for a few plays. We ran it a couple times last week against Indianapolis and got nothing out of it [incomplete pass and sack]. Everybody talks about those couple Baltimore plays, but Indianapolis defended it very well. It's just something we tried the one week and it gave us a little spark."

On the play against the Colts in which left tackle Nate Solder caught a 16-yard touchdown pass, the Patriots had put a different twist on things by declaring Solder eligible and having rookie offensive tackle Cameron Fleming -- who had been eligible the play before -- remain in the game as an ineligible receiver.

For his part, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called the Patriots' strategy "within the rules" and "great ball" in the week leading up to Super Bowl XLIX.

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