The National Football League (NFL) has found that the New England Patriots used underinflated footballs during their 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday night’s AFC Championship Game, according to ESPN.

The NFL, which was investigating whether the Patriots intentionally deflated the footballs, found that 11 of 12 footballs used during the game by the team were underinflated by two pounds each, significantly less than what is required by NFL regulations, ESPN reported, adding that investigators are yet to determine how the 11 footballs became underinflated and what penalties, if any, could be imposed on the Patriots.

“Nobody is suggesting the footballs had any appreciable impact on the game; it was a b***-whooping,” said WTHR sports columnist Bob Kravitz, who first tweeted about the issue. “But if the league believes the balls were deflated, expect the Pats to be fined or be forced to forfeit draft picks. Or both.”

According to NFL rules, each team provides 12 footballs that are required to be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch and weigh between 14 and 15 ounces. A referee checks and approves the game balls 2 hours and 15 minutes before kickoff, and no alterations to the footballs are permitted after the final approval. A softer, underinflated football could potentially provide a competitive advantage to a team's quarterback and receivers, as it allows for an easier grip on the ball while throwing and catching.

“I think I've heard it all at this point ... it's ridiculous,” ESPN quoted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as saying to Boston radio station WEEI on Monday. “I don't even respond to stuff like this.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was fined $500,000 in 2007 for spying on the New York Jets, said Monday that his team would “cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to, whatever questions they ask.”