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One quarter into the 2015 NFL season, the Patriots have already been accused of cheating

The Steelers' coaching headsets stopped working, and everybody suspiciously looked over at the Patriots.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

During Thursday night's NFL opener between the Steelers and the Patriots, NBC's Michele Tafoya reported that Pittsburgh's coaching staff struggled to use their headsets when their radio signal got crossed with a Patriots broadcast.

Tafoya said during the first quarter that the communication system connecting Pittsburgh's coaches was effected, with a New England radio broadcast "bleeding in," preventing the coaches from adequately communicating. The "bleeding" didn't occur on the coach-to-player headsets. In-game reporting made no mention of any issues on New England's sideline.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed after the game -- and heavily suggested foul play on the Patriots' part:

Patriots coach  Bill Belichick said after the game that his coaches also had communication issues and had to switch headsets all night long, and that this was a longtime issue.

After the game, the NFL released a statement about the Steelers' headset issues, blaming a nearby storm for causing power issues. But the NFL didn't corroborate Belichick's assertion that the Patriots had also had issues:

It's perfectly possible, perhaps even probable, that this was just an accident. There's practically no way to confirm or deny any mischief in a situation like this: radio signals are rather easy to screw with and rather tough to track -- impossible to track if they're not currently broadcasting.) And the Patriots don't have any control over their opponents' communication system -- the league handles that for both teams at all games, with a "gameday frequency coordinator" assigned to snuffing out any potential mix-ups.

But this comes on the heels of a comprehensive report by ESPN about the the "Deflategate" and "Spygate" scandals and the way the NFL handled them -- one that included a detail about the way the Patriots allegedly tampered with opponents' radio headsets:

At Gillette Stadium, the scrambling and jamming of the opponents' coach-to-quarterback radio line -- "small s---" that many teams do, according to a former Pats assistant coach -- occurred so often that one team asked a league official to sit in the coaches' box during the game and wait for it to happen. Sure enough, on a key third down, the headset went out.

An SI report had similar claims:

But representatives from several teams told SI they have experienced problems with the coaches' equipment at Gillette—echoing a complaint from the Jaguars after their 2006 playoff loss there, when coach Jack Del Rio said his team's headsets "mysteriously malfunctioned" for most of the first half. In May, Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby told that his on-field headset stopped working when his Cardinals played the Patriots in 2008, and he does not think it was an accident: "They gonna do what they gotta do to win. It's just how they operate."

It wouldn't make sense to futz with an opponents' radio system for an entire game, because of a rule requiring both teams to go without radios if one team's isn't working. But in short bursts, one could really irritate an opposing coaching staff at critical moments by messing with their signal. All the Patriots would have to do is figure out their opponents' frequency -- again, not under their control -- and broadcast something else on it.

Although there's no way anybody can say the Patriots did or didn't do anything here, the list of piddly cheating-like things the Patriots have been accused of doing keeps growing. It's just funny to see this so soon after a summer of Patriots cheating controversy.

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