The New England Patriots scored a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game on a play that should have been called back for an illegal substitution, NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino told reporters Thursday.
On the play before offensive lineman Nate Solder's 16-yard touchdown catch, fellow lineman Cameron Fleming reported as an eligible receiver. On the following play, Fleming declared himself ineligible. By rule, a player must leave the field for at least one play in order to change from an eligible receiver to ineligible, or there must be a stoppage in play.
"We’re going to be obviously looking for that, make sure we follow the proper mechanics to make sure that doesn’t happen again," Blandino said, according to The Boston Globe.
The play came with 10:10 remaining in the third quarter and the Patriots took a 24-7 lead after the extra point.
The Patriots have tinkered with their eligible receivers in their past two games. In the Divisional Round against the Baltimore Ravens, New England used a four-man offensive line and declared running back Shane Vereen ineligible on a handful of plays in the third quarter. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh called the tactic "deceptive" and "illegal."
- Dan Gartland