- The Baltimore Ravens ran a trick play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday where their tight end lined up at left guard, then leaked out into the field and caught a pass for a first down.
- The play resembled a trick play the New England Patriots used against the Ravens in the 2014 playoffs, where an eligible receiver lined up inside while an ineligible receiver lined up outside, then caught passes down the field.
- The Ravens called that play “deception,” and it led to a new rule about illegal formations.
- The Ravens’ trick play in Week 4 might have been technically illegal, but they got away with it.
The Baltimore Ravens ran a trick play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday that resembled a play they’d previously griped about.
On a short-yardage situation against the Steelers, the Ravens lined up tight end Maxx Williams at left guard. When the ball was snapped, Williams leaked out, confusing the Steelers’ pass rush, and Joe Flacco hit him on a short pass that went 22 yards to get the first down.
Here was the play:
Here it is. The Ravens lined up the TE at LG off the ball. So clever! Love it. pic.twitter.com/QmWL74w7Qa
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) October 1, 2018
The play resembled (though it’s not identical) the play the New England Patriots ran against the Ravens in the 2014 playoffs.
In that play, the Patriots lined up an ineligible receiver in the slot and an eligible receiver on the inside. When they snapped the ball, the ineligible receiver stayed put, but the eligible receiver leaked out for big-yardage plays. The Patriots eventually scored a touchdown on the drive. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh called the play, “deception.”
Heading into the 2015 season, the NFL banned the formation, making it illegal for ineligible receivers to line up in the slot.
Williams didn’t line up in the slot, but the idea was similar – a player the defense thought was ineligible ran out and caught a pass for a first down.
Former NFL referee Terry McAulay said on the NBC broadcast that Williams should have been further back to be an eligible receiver. Eligible receivers must be lined up behind the center, but the refs likely didn’t notice it, and the Ravens got away with it.
The Ravens would end up kicking a field goal on the drive and eventually beat the Steelers, 26-14.