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Brady: Trick plays part of football

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quarterback Tom Brady on Monday tried to soften his remarks regarding Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh's gripes after Saturday night's game but also made it clear that the New England Patriots are making no apologies for their approach.

Brady, in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, was asked about the Patriots' unique plan to have just four offensive linemen in the game, a strategy that prompted Harbaugh to complain about the "substitution trick" following the Patriots' 35-31 victory. When Brady was asked about Harbaugh's comments Saturday, he said the Ravens should study the rulebook.

On Monday, Brady seemed to go out of his way to soften that stance.

"Let me say first, I have a lot of respect for him as a coach, and obviously that team is one of the toughest teams we face. It's always a tough matchup," Brady said on WEEI's Dennis and Callahan Show.

"It was a play that we liked and we thought would work. We had a couple versions of it. It's kind of an alert play for our team, and we made them figure out what to do. I think that's what it looked like to me. We had to execute it, we had to make the appropriate calls and block it and make the plays, and I was proud of us. That was a good weapon for us.

"That's part of football. You have to prepare for everything."

On the three plays the Patriots used four offensive linemen, they completed three passes for 41 yards. Add in a 5-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Harbaugh as a result of arguing with officials -- in that scenario, the Ravens were penalized half the distance to the goal -- and that accounted for 46 yards specifically as a result of the unique plan.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the unique formation was not out of the ordinary, citing special teams examples, and added that inspiration for the four-offensive-lineman strategy came from watching another NFL team.

"The origin of that play was from the NFL," Belichick said Monday during a conference call with reporters. "What they did it sparked some ideas. We did what we did.

"It's a play that it's a situation that I saw another team use, kind of, and then we talked about it and thought about ways to maybe put some pressure on the defense with that concept of having more receivers on the field than were eligible.

"[Traditionally teams] make them ineligible instead of making ineligible guys eligible. We'd go the other way around. So we came up with a few ideas."

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has seen similar plays before -- and knows they'll happen again.

"I've seen it a few different places, where people try to do it differently," he said Monday on a conference call. "The situation it comes up in may be different, but you've seen linemen lined up different places, you've seen the center saddled by the two guards and the tackles are removed way outside the numbers at times. There are a lot of different formations that teams have tried or people have used to try to get a play here or there out of those types of things.

"Everything is part of the rules, and if there is a way to maybe give yourself an opportunity to get a positive play in a different situation, it's worth doing it. But I've definitely seen it before and I'm sure it won't be the last time."

Harbaugh said Saturday that the NFL should look into the Patriots' strategy, but the league told ESPN's Chris Mortensen on Sunday that the Patriots' substitutions were legal from both a formation and reporting standpoint.

For those who want to take it one step further, the Ravens also had a 12-men-on-the-field penalty during the drive in which the Patriots ran those three plays with four offensive linemen. If adding those five yards, the Patriots' trickery accounted for 51 yards.