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John Harbaugh: Pats' substitutions deceptive

Patriots coach Bill Belichick reached deep into his bag of football tricks and came up with a four-man offensive line that had Ravens coach John Harbaugh crying foul after New England's thrilling 35-31 victory in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Counteracting a ferocious first-half pass rush, the Patriots called a change-up in the third quarter, aligning four blockers on the line of scrimmage with another player checking in as an ineligible receiver.

Harbaugh believes the Patriots should have been penalized for the "deceptive" substitutions utilized on those plays.

"It's not something that anybody has ever done before," Harbaugh said. "The league will look at that type of thing, and I'm sure they'll make some adjustments and things like that."

The Ravens' main complaint was they weren't given enough notice that the player was not eligible, Ian Rapoport reported Sunday on NFL GameDay Morning. Rapoport added the play was not illegal, and they were given some notice -- and it was announced in the stadium -- but the Ravens felt it wasn't enough. To review, the referees will go through the game Sunday and look at the mechanics like always.

Tom Brady countered in typical Patriots fashion, saying "maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out. We obviously knew what we were doing and we made some pretty important plays. It was a real good weapon for us. Maybe we'll have something in store next week."

On one play, running back Shane Vereen didn't alert the officials to his ineligibility until just before the snap.

"We wanted an opportunity to be able to identify who the eligible players were," Harbaugh explained, "because what they were doing was they would announce the eligible player and Tom (Brady) would take it to the line right away and snap the ball before (we) even figured out who was lined up where. And that was the deception part of it. It was clearly deception.

"The officials told me after that they would give us the opportunity to do that, which they probably should have done during that series but they really didn't understand what was happening. I had to go take the penalty to get their attention so they can understand what was going on."

The Patriots can't be penalized retroactively for a new play introduced by their coaching staff this week. Even if the competition committee sides with Harbaugh and eventually outlaws the tactic, Belichick can take solace in the fact that it helped him to the biggest playoff comeback victory in franchise history.

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