Patriots should be held accountable

ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen is reporting new information that adds important context to the New England Patriots' usage of deflated footballs.

Citing sources, Mortensen reports that of the 12 footballs weighed by officials before Sunday’s AFC Championship game, 11 of them came in under-inflated by two pounds of air (PSI) when weighed either after or during the Patriots’ 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

This information alters my outlook on the overall story.

Prior to this point, the feeling was that if one or two footballs came in under weight, it was going to be hard for the NFL to make a decisive ruling against the Patriots. But 11 of 12 footballs is pretty strong evidence that something was happening from the time officials inspected the footballs 2 hours, 15 minutes before the game and the actual game itself.

The Patriots, assuming the initial inspection of footballs by referee Walt Anderson and his crew was done correctly and that weather wasn't a factor, should be held accountable.

As I wrote in Tuesday’s Patriots mailbag, “There are specific rules that prohibit altering the ball after they have been checked by the officials 2 hours, 15 minutes before game time. If the Patriots (or any team, for that matter) are knowingly breaking those rules outside of the normal scope of what is accepted (e.g. New York Times story on Eli Manning; Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers acknowledging how he likes his footballs to feel), there is a price to pay.”

To be clear, more information is needed before any final judgment can be made on accountability. At this point, the fact 11 of 12 footballs came in underweight moves the story forward, and raises more questions as to how it happened.