Remember when the New England Patriots were down 14 for the second time in January's AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Baltimore Ravens and the team dug deep into its playbook to come back to tie - and ultimately win - the game? Creative football at its best.
At one point during the third quarter, and down 28-14, New England opted to use an unusual formation: the team fielded just four offensive linemen, while tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who was eligible, lined up at the left tackle spot. Running back Shane Vereen reported as an ineligible receiver within the formation.
Via Inside The Pylon, the formation - which was used a grand total of three times - looked as follows:
Section 3 Changes in Position
Article 1 Reporting Change of Position. An offensive player wearing the number of an ineligible pass receiver (50-79 and 90-99) is permitted to line up in the position of an eligible pass receiver (1-49 and 80-89), and an offensive player wearing the number of an eligible pass receiver is permitted to line up in the position of an ineligible pass receiver, provided that he immediately reports the change in his eligibility status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team.
He must participate in such eligible or ineligible position as long as he is continuously in the game, but prior to each play he must again report his status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team. The game clock shall not be stopped, and the ball shall not be put in play until the Referee takes his normal position.
Next year, however, they would have to come up with something else because the NFL's competition committee passed a proposal today to outlaw such tactics regarding the eligibility/ineligibility of players (a proposal submitted not by a team but the committee itself).
In an attempt to secure "competitive fairness", the following bits, which forbid teams to use the change of position rules to their advantage, were added:
Note: An offensive player wearing the number of an eligible pass receiver who reports as ineligible must line up within the tackle box.
Penalty: If a player fails to notify the Referee of a change in his status when required or an offensive player with an eligible number reports as ineligible and lines up outside the tackle box: Loss of five yards for illegal substitution.
If this by-law had been in effect in January, Vereen would have had to line up inside the tackles to avoid being flagged for illegal substitution.
The competition committee also approved the following rule changes (via Ryan Hannable of weei.com):
- Linebackers are now permitted to wear No.'s 40-49.
- Retractable roofs can now be opened at halftime, even if they were closed for the first half.
- Instant replay now includes a review of game clock on the final play of a half or overtime.
- Enforcement of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of a half will now be applied to the ensuing kickoff to start the second half.
- The date for the beginning of the window during which players on the PUP list may begin practice has been modified to make it more competitively fair for teams playing on Thursday.