So the other day I was watching ‘The NFL’s Greatest Games’ on ESPN. I have to say, it’s quite entertaining…whatever game is on. This time, it happened to be ‘The Catch II’, referring to the 1998 Wild Card game between the Packers and the 49ers. Yes, this piece is about the signal-stealing done by the Pats, so bear with me.
Towards the end of the game, Brett Favre throws a TD pass to Antonio Freeman. In an interview taped later, he broke it down. Basically, he calls a fake audible at the line of scrimmage, an audible for a quick inside hitch route. Instead, Freeman runs a hitch and go and ends up wide open in the end zone. The CB covering Freeman bit on the hitch, allowing Freeman to run free behind him. In other words, Favre called the audible at the line of scrimmage knowing that the CB knew what the audible was and used it to his advantage.
What does that mean and how is it relevant? Signal stealing is rampant. Not only was the Niner secondary aware of what Favre’s signals were, Favre knew that they were. He used it to his advantage.
What did the Patriots do? They videotaped the defensive signals, in an attempt to gain an advantage. Is it against the rules? Yes. Does it give the Pats an advantage? Yes. Is there that much of an advantage? Considering how rampant signal-stealing is (most coaches cover their lips when they call their plays out of fear that the other team has lip-readers with binoculars), not really.