Here we go again?
Close to nine years since “DeflateGate” plagued the Patriots and their fans for what felt like forever, Gillette Stadium was reportedly the site of another game marred by underinflated footballs.
On Wednesday, MassLive’s Mark Daniels reported that the kicking balls used by both New England and Kansas City in the first half of Sunday’s showdown in Foxborough were underinflated by as much as two pounds per square inch (PSI).
When the Patriots complained about the state of the kicking balls after both Patriots kicker Chad Ryland and Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker missed field goals in the first half, officials took the balls into the locker room at halftime.
Upon measurement, the balls only weighed 11 pounds, instead of the legal limit of 13.5, a source told Daniels.
According to Daniels, the Patriots noticed that something was amiss when Butker’s opening kickoff landed at the 3-yard line.
So far this season, Butker has hit 87.1% of his kickoffs for touchbacks, while his missed field-goal attempt later in the first quarter was his first of the year after successfully converting on his first 23 attempts.
“As the half went on, the team noticed that the trajectory and hang time of kickoffs and punts were lower than usual,” Daniels wrote. “Another source noted that the kicking balls were unusually soft to the touch.”
Even though Ryland has been far from automatic during his field-goal attempts this season, a source told Daniels that the rookie kicker’s “mechanics were good on the attempt”.
According to NFL rules, teams are not allowed to use the kicking balls in pregame warmups. With both teams unable to spot the issue ahead of time, the underinflated balls went unnoticed until Butler’s opening boot. The kicking balls were inflated back up to their standard weight after halftime.
The Patriots ultimately fell to the Chiefs, 27-17, with Butler making two field goals from 29 yards and 54 yards in the second half.
Any talk of deflated footballs likely has Patriots fans breaking out into a cold sweat — with phrases like “ideal gas law” and “The Mona Lisa Vito of the football world” occupying their subconscious once again.
But with both the Patriots and Chiefs struggling with kicks on Sunday, this stands as a situation where the league and its officials dropped the ball (literally) for all involved.
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