Peyton Manning accuses Patriots of cheating during 'Monday Night Football' telecast

ROB TORNOE
The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
In this Feb. 6, 2020 file photo, Peyton Manning, left, and his brother Eli Manning wait to hit from the first tee of the Spyglass Hill Golf Course during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament in Pebble Beach, Calif. During a Monday night telecast, Peyton Manning accused the New England Patriots of cheating.

The New England Patriots weren't on the field Monday night, but took the biggest hit of the game, courtesy of Peyton Manning.

During the Manning brothers' alternate telecast of last night's Monday Night Football game on ESPN2, Peyton pivoted to the Patriots after pointing out that Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers were following the game plan he outlined to Eli late last week.

"I feel like the Packers were listening to ... our conversation on Friday about, 'We got to come out and run the ball,'" Peyton said. "I think our conversation was bugged, you know, kind of like the Patriots used to do back in the day."

The comment caused Eli to lift back his head in laughter, but Peyton wasn't finished.

"Every time I played against New England, I used to go and talk to my receivers in the shower in the far corner. I'm like, 'Don't talk about a play next to my locker because I know it's bugged. I know it's got a hot mic in there,'" Peyton added.

ESPN reported that the Patriots took close-up video shots of Manning's hands during the 2007 season as part of a wider scandal that became known as Spygate, which also reportedly involved stealing team's play books from locker rooms and disguising employees as NFL workers to record opponent's walk-throughs prior to games.

Coaching assistants under the direction of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick were ultimately caught videotaping play-calling signals used by the New York Jets from an unauthorized location during a September 9, 2007 game. Both Belichick and the Patriots were fined, and the team lost its first round draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. After the league's investigation, Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly ordered the tapes destroyed, saying at the time, "I think it was the right thing to do."

At least one former Eagles staffer is quoted in the story, telling ESPN he believed Belichick's willingness to cheat cost the Birds a fair shot at winning the Super Bowl:

When Spygate broke, some of the Eagles now believed they had an answer for a question that had vexed them since they lost to the Patriots 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX: How did New England seem completely prepared for the rarely used dime defense the Eagles deployed in the second quarter, scoring touchdowns on three of four drives? The Eagles suspected that either practices were filmed or a playbook was stolen. "To this day, some believe that we were robbed by the Patriots not playing by the rules ... and knowing our game plan," a former Eagles football operations staffer says.

Steve Spagnuolo, who was the linebackers coach for the Eagles in 2005 when the team lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, said he believed New England stole signals during the game, but stopped short of accusing the team of illegally filming them.

"The biggest thing we learned was make sure you have two signal callers, not one signal caller, because they may have all your signals," Spagnuolo said in 2018 during an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic.

"I remember through the course of the game Jim [Johnson] saying, 'They're getting our signals. They know when we're blitzing ... try to hide it.' I remember distinctly thinking. 'I don't think so Jim, just concentrate on calling the game,' Spagnuolo recalled. "In hindsight, he was right. When you go back and look at that tape, it was evident to us. ... We believe that Tom [Brady] knew when we were pressuring him because he certainly got the ball out pretty quick."