The NFL outlawed Bill Belichick's genius trick play that fooled the NFL in the playoffs


Bill Belichick

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NFL has passed a rule banning the genius formation the New England Patriots devised in the NFL playoffs.

Former NFL vice president of officiating and Fox Sports analyst Mike Pereira tweeted the new rule changes:




Dan Hanzus of reported in March that the owners had passed the proposal to ban the formation. It seems it now has been officially written into the rule book.

In the NFL, an offense has to have five players on the field who are ineligible to catch a pass. These five players are usually offensive lineman and they usually are stacked in the middle of the field to protect the quarterback.

In the AFC divisional playoff against the Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots ran three-straight plays where they stacked four ineligible receivers in the middle of the field, with a fifth eligible receiver next to them to look like a blocker. They put their fifth ineligible player further along the line of scrimmage to make him look like a receiver.



This will now be illegal. The ineligible receiver in the screencap above would have to be within the tackles.



When the Patriots snapped the ball, the receiver disguised as a tackle ran out for a pass, while the ineligible receiver stayed on the line of scrimmage, as ineligible receivers are not allowed to run out past the line of scrimmage.

The formation and play totally fooled the Ravens, and the Patriots marched down the field with three straight completions for first downs. In this play, Michael Hoomanawanui ran unguarded because the Ravens thought he was ineligible:


patriots formation 2


After the game, the Ravens were upset about the plays, with John Harbaugh saying:

"We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were. What [the Patriots] were doing was they announce the ineligible player and then Tom [Brady] would take them to the line right away and snap the ball before we had a chance to figure out who was lined up where. That was the deception part of it. It was clearly deception."

He added that the referees didn't know what was going on, either.

In preparation for the Super Bowl, referees had hand signals to help the Seahawks know when the Patriots were using this formation. 

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