The first game of the NFL season happened Thursday night, and the defending champion New England Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were terrific, but it should come as no surprise that much of this morning's reaction has been centered on something other than the game: an allegation of malfunctioning headsets.
An article on the Steelers’ website says that the Pittsburgh coaching staff’s headsets were receiving the Patriots radio call, preventing the Steelers' coaches from communicating.
When a set of headsets malfunctions completely for one team during an NFL game, the league's Equity Rule requires the other team to shut down their headsets as well.
However, according to the article by Bob Labriola, when an NFL representative approached the Patriots’ sideline to shut down their headsets, the Pittsburgh headsets cleared. When the representative left the Patriots, the Steelers’ headsets began malfunctioning again.
The accusation comes on the heels of more scathing accusations against the Patriots organization, but headset communication problems are not uncommon.
Matt Bonesteel of the Washington Post remarks that headset problems have occurred in other NFL stadiums, and have been for years. Even the Patriots themselves have been victims of headset communication malfunctions when visiting other NFL stadiums.
Conspiracy theorists are worked up about the Patriots right now, and perhaps they have good reason to be. But if they plan to get worked up about malfunctioning headsets, I’d recommend they focus their energy elsewhere.
Whether their opponent had fully functional headsets or not, it’s possible that the Patriots were simply the better team on Thursday night.