Officials adjusting for ineligible receivers

The Patriots’ use of eligible and ineligible receivers will be more clearly pointed out to defenders before the play in Super Bowl XLIX, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. Even so, the Patriots’ tactic has caused additional game planning for the Seattle defense.

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Pete Carroll saw the struggles that opposing teams faced with the New England Patriots’ use of eligible and ineligible receivers earlier in the playoffs and went right to work to rectify the situation for his team.

The head coach of the Seattle Seahawks said he was told the officials in Sunday’s Super Bowl will make sure players on the field are more aware of who is eligible and who isn’t on a play-by-play basis.

“There was a mistake made in that (AFC Championship) game that was on a touchdown play, when a player came in, reported eligible and then stayed on for the next play and didn’t get off the field and they scored a touchdown on that play – that shouldn’t have happened,” Carroll said. “That’s something that could happen. The Colts got fooled on that play. On the next player reporting eligible it was a different player, so it got confusing and they miscovered the guy. We don’t want that to happen if we can help it, so we called in and asked about that.”

Carroll’s call with league officials apparently prompted some change. He said officials will have a new signal that designates when a player with an ineligible number will be eligible to be a receiver and vice versa so defenders can “clearly identify” those issues.

“The Patriots have brought that to the forefront because they’ve been using some stuff like that lately,” Carroll said. “We’ve been preparing for it every day because we don’t want to be caught in mishandling on our end. It’s really on us to see it. The officials do what they do, but we still have to find it because it could happen like it did to the Colts. We’re very much in tune with it. It has just been part of the preparation so it’s not a big deal to us now.”

The Patriots came out with some unique formations in their first two playoffs game, using four offensive linemen close to the formation and then having an extra offensive lineman on other downs, creating some confusion for their opponents at times.

“It doesn’t change anything. They’re going to still do what they’re going to do,” Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor said. “The refs are going to call out those ineligible guys, those eligible guys, and we’re going to see it like we always see it every game. When they do call it out, we hear it and we see it. We pay attention to detail. We’re a detail-oriented team defense, so it’s not going to change anything.”

Carroll said the referee will point out ineligible receivers wearing normally eligible numbers by pointing at them and giving a low signal like an incomplete pass.

Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said the Patriots’ unconventional use of eligible and ineligible receivers created additional time in preparing the Seahawks defense.

“When you go through that whole process, that’s an unusual one from them, and that’s one way for them to attack,” Quinn said. “One of the nice parts of our defense is we’re not so complex that we have multiple calls for every scenario. We really try to just stay true to our style. We don’t have so many defenses in the scheme, so that allows us to sort of not get out of rhythm based on what they’re doing.”

Conversely, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola said the use of ineligible receivers doesn’t create additional prep time for them. It’s simply a way for the Patriots to keep defenses off balance, he said.

“I think it poses a big challenge,” Patriots running back Shane Vereen said. “It’s hard to keep track of things when we make a big switch like that and that’s why we were doing it the last couple of weeks. It’s part of the game plan that we had.”

Said Amendola: “The challenge is it’s kind of a different formation. You have to count your guys, you have to cover up the ones that are eligible and go from there. It’s a little different but something other teams have got to practice.”

The advantage the Seahawks have is that they’ve seen the Patriots do it over the last two games, but the Patriots also prepped officials before those playoffs games about that wrinkle they would be employing. Of course, their opponents had no such advance warning – all part of the element of surprise.

“I think we’ve only done it five times all year,” New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “We’ve huddled every time. We’ve reported every time, ineligible. And once we did that we broke the huddle, we lined up and we ran the play. We didn’t try to hurry. We didn’t try to do anything that was deceptive in that manner. I think it was unique for a few plays. What most people probably don’t know is we ran it a couple times last week against Indianapolis and got nothing out of it. Everybody talks about those couple Baltimore plays, but Indianapolis defended it very well. It’s just something we tried the one week and it gave us a little spark.”

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