The NFL has determined that the New England Patriots used deflated footballs during its win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game on Sunday night, according to multiple reports.
Both ESPN and The Boston Globe reported late Tuesday that 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots in the 45-7 victory were under-inflated. While league rules require footballs to be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch, ESPN reported that the game balls were 2 pounds short.
However, NFL executive vice president for football operations Troy Vincent told The Associated Press the "investigation is currently underway and we're still awaiting findings."
ESPN cited an unnamed source as saying the league is "disappointed ... angry ... distraught" over the discovery, which has been nicknamed "Deflategate."
On Twitter, NFL legend Jerry Rice weighed in:
11 of 12 balls under-inflated can anyone spell cheating!!! #Just Saying
— Jerry Rice (@JerryRice) January 21, 2015
The NFL is still investigating how and when the footballs became under-inflated, ESPN said.
Under-inflated balls are easier to grip and catch, especially under the rainy conditions in which the game took place.
Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson reportedly noticed something different about the ball after his second quarter interception and gave it to the team's equipment manager.
Newsday reports that Colts officials complained to the league about the balls during halftime, when the Patriots were leading 17-7. The paper says it's still not clear whether the balls were used during the third quarter when the Patriots scored 21 points and put the title out of reach for the Colts.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Colts made a similar charge against New England after a November 2014 game.
Under current NFL rules, each team provides a dozen footballs to use when it's on offense. The balls are supposed to be inspected, marked and checked during the game. In addition to the balls provided by each team, eight balls used for kicking are shipped directly to the referees by the manufacturer.
It's not yet clear what, if any, penalties the Patriots may face as a result of the probe. The Boston Globe reports that the team could face a minimum fine of $25,000 and perhaps the loss of a draft pick.
The Patriots were previously fined $250,000 and lost a first-round draft pick over "Spygate," a 2007 incident in which the team videotaped defensive signals by the rival New York Jets.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was also fined $500,000 as a result of the scandal.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that the ESPN and Boston Globe reports on the NFL investigation were released on Tuesday night.
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