Sports

Does Spy Gate Taint The Pats? Yes

It was in the third drawer on the right.

I knew it. The class knew it. The whole school knew it. That's where Ms. Keeran stored her homework approval stamp.

With five minutes left in biology class, she'd take it out and mark the papers of all those who found time between episodes of "Jackass" and "The Tom Green Show" to answer 10 questions about the Galapagos Islands.

You could generally count me out of that group.

So after fourth period, generally when Ms. Keeran was chatting with Mr. Brown the history teacher, I'd join a few 14-year-old rebels in sneaking into that third drawer on the right and smudging the red, rhinoceros-shaped ink onto my 8½-by-11 worksheet.

Problem was, Ms. Keeran used triceratops for Wednesday assignments. Busted.

The initial punishment wasn't too severe -- one "F" on a homework assignment doesn't topple an overall grade.

What truly stung was getting caught red-handed in an attempt to scam a system, having all previous assignments questioned and losing the trust of every teacher in the school.

But that's what happens when you get caught cheating.

And using illegal means to steal a team's defensive signals is cheating in its filthiest form. It's a tactic that, through the following steps, can result in big second-half plays:

Team A's cameraman videotapes Team B's coach giving defensive signals

-- designed to guard against humans, not high-tech cameras -- to his middle linebacker.

At halftime, the video is analyzed and signals for several of Team B's blitz packages are stolen.

That information is relayed to Team A's quarterback, who uses it to recognize a handful of second-half blitzes before the snap. Any NFL quarterback -- let alone Tom Brady -- should be able to turn those plays into productive gains.

Last weekend, five NFL games were decided by three points or fewer. All three of the Patriots' Super Bowl wins were decided by exactly three points.

Ironically, it was a missed blitz assignment that almost kept New England's reign from even starting. The infamous "tuck rule" bailed the Patriots out on that night.

Maybe the flashbacks of Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson blind-siding Brady were too much for Bill Belichick to handle. Maybe the referee's review on the snowy December night was too much for the Patriots' coach to bear. Maybe he needed to make sure his team's reign was never compromised in that fashion again.

A lot of speculation? Yes. A lot of dot-connecting? Absolutely.

But once the Patriots were caught cheating Sunday and the team's credibility was shattered, Belichick had no grounds to combat the media's suspicion.

"Any questions about the Chargers?" he asked at a news conference.

Yes, Bill, just one.

Do you know their plays, too?

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