Yup – another New England (N.E.) Patriot’s dominating performance and another controversy. There are a lot of “haters” out there, but success breeds resentment. This particular controversy doesn’t involve video cameras and stolen signals, but game balls. The Colts are accusing New England of using under-inflated footballs during their embarrassing loss to those same Patriots. Maybe going 0-4 against N.E. in the Andrew Luck era – and well let’s face it – not that much better during the Peyton Manning era either, has taken its toll.

To understand how ridiculous this accusation is let’s start with how the game ball process works:
Former NFL official Jim Daopoulos, in an interview with ESPN on Monday morning, 1/19/15, explained the process in which footballs are managed. Two hours and 15 minutes before each game, officials inspect 12 footballs from each team and put a mark on them to indicate they meet the proper requirements and are good for usage. Then those footballs are given to the ball attendant NOT back to the team.

There also is a second set of six footballs, used specifically for the kicking game, that are also marked appropriately and remain in the possession of officials at all times.”

If you watch a football game, it is not hard to notice that an official physically touches the football in between every play. The only time the officials typically do not touch the ball is if a player decides to keep the ball after some type of memorable play or whatever. But the point is the official has access to and can determine if the ball needs to be replaced at any time, and in particular when the ball is entering the game. Daopoulos says so himself, “Officials check balls as they go into the game, and if the ball doesn’t feel perfect, they can throw it out.”

He further adds, “There is always the possibility that balls can lose air due to the conditions.” You can read more about that in the science section I included below.

Sure, obviously an under-inflated football is easier to throw, catch, hold on to, especially in the rainy weather conditions. Per the rule book, an NFL football has to be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch and weigh, just less than a pound, at between 14 and 15 ounces. Furthermore, the game operations manual for the NFL says “Once the balls have left the locker room, no one, including players, equipment managers, ball boys, and coaches, is allowed to alter the footballs in any way. If any individual alters the footballs, or if a non-approved ball is used in the game, the person responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000.”

Yes, you could see the rain on TV in the second half, yes the officials removed a ball to start the 3rd quarter, and yes the Patriots whooped the Colts. But this is a team that also ran the ball for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns in total. Tom Brady also threw 3 touchdown passes, but those passes did not travel more than 10 yards at most. One of them was a 1 yard TD pass to the fullback on the goal line. The other was a trick play short pass to an offensive lineman and the other a short pass to Gronk. It is not like Tom was airing it out all over the place. Most of the passes were short and quick, in fact the Patriots averaged 9.8 yards per catch and passed for just 226 yards all game, down from their season average of 257 yard per game.

Science Section:

For you science nerds out there, you’ll appreciate this and for the rest of you – well you’ll probably stop trying to accuse the Patriots of cheating after your head explodes. I pulled this off of Reddit and googled and reviewed Guy-Lussac’s Law as well to make sure the formulas were legit:

From http://www.reddit.com/user/niknight_ml

Given the conditions of the game, a ball which meets specifications in the locker room could easily lose enough pressure to be considered under-inflated. Some math:
Guy-Lussac’s Law describes the relationship between the pressure of a confined ideal gas and its temperature. For the sake of argument, we will assume that the football is a rigid enough container (unless a ball is massively deflated, it’s volume won’t change). The relationship is (P1/T1) = (P2/T2), where P is the pressure and T is the temperature in Kelvins.
The balls are inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 psi at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (294.1 K). Let’s assume an average ball has a pressure of 13 psi. Since these are initial values, we will call them P1 and T1.
The game time temperature was 49 degrees F (278 K). We are attempting to solve for the new pressure at this temperature, P2. We plug everything into the equation and get (13/294.1) = (P2/278).

At the game time temperature, the balls would have a pressure of 12.3 psi, below league specifications. *Furthermore, given that it was raining all day, the air in the stadium was saturated with water vapor. At 70 degrees, water has a vapor pressure of 0.38 psi. The total pressure of the ball is equal to the pressure of the air inside the ball and the vaporized water in the ball. At 49 degrees, the vapor pressure of water is 0.13 psi. Up to 0.25 additional psi can be lost if the balls were inflated by either the team or the refs prior to the game. Granted, it’s unlikely that anyone would inflate balls from 0, but it easily could cost another couple hundredths of a psi in pressure.

For a ball that barely meets specifications (12.5 psi), it’s pressure would drop to 11.8 psi during the game… enough to be considered massively under-inflated.

People can say what they want, they always do, but what I say, and the science and math says, is this was nothing more than a good, old fashion beat down by one of the game’s greatest at one of the toughest places for a road team to win in the playoffs…