Sources earlier this season told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the Colts had concerns about underinflated balls after their regular-season game against the visiting Patriots on Nov. 16.
During that game, Colts safety Mike Adams twice intercepted Tom Brady and gave the balls to the Colts' equipment manager to save -- and both times there were concerns about the balls feeling underinflated, sources told Schefter.
Those sources said the Colts raised concerns to the league, which was aware of the issue going into this weekend's AFC title game.
True, but we're not in a court here and here are the key data points.
1) The Colts made this observation about the Patriots before. Not other teams, not just this game.
2) 11 of 12 balls were flagged. This is not one leaker.
3) The balls were inspected by refs 2hr, 15min before game time and passed.
4) All the Colts balls passed all checks. They didn't deflate with time.
5) Belichick is famously detail oriented saying:
With regard to footballs, I’m sure that any current or past player of mine would tell you that the balls we practice with are as bad as they can be: wet, sticky, cold, slippery, however bad we can make them, I make them.
but his team is putting out of regulation footballs in play and he knows nothing.
6) Brady is a world class quarterback but says he didn't notice anything:
Brady, the Patriots’ quarterback, wants us to believe that:
Before games, like most quarterbacks, he makes sure the footballs meet his precise specifications. He likes them to have 12.5 pounds of pressure per square inch. Presumably, he also likes them worked in so they are not too shiny, too slippery, too waxy, or covered in maple syrup. Then -- he made this point multiple times Thursday -- he doesn’t want anybody touching them. They’re perfect the way they are.
And yet, during the first half of the Patriots’ AFC Championship win over the Colts, Brady was playing with balls that were well under his preferred 12.5 pounds of PSI. At least 11 of the 12 were under-inflated.
But guess what? He didn’t notice. He had nothing to do with it. He has no idea how it happened. Maybe a manager did it on his own, maybe there was a porcupine in the ball bag. But Brady -- Tom Brady, the same extremely competitive, detail-oriented man who helped lobby the league to allow quarterbacks to supply their own footballs -- didn’t notice they were under-inflated.
Then, at the start of the second half, Brady started using new footballs that were properly inflated and he said he didn't notice the difference.
OK, so I'm not a lawyer demanding a certain level of proof, I'm an engineer and when seeking to solve a problem, I form hypotheses to explain the observations. All the hypotheses I'm left with are intentional, possibly systemic ball modification.