New Illegal Contact Emphasis On Display Last Night

Coming into the game, I shared a Tweet from Pittsburgh Steelers multimedia personality Bob Labriola, who wrote that, through the first 13 preseason games heading into yesterday, there were 44 flags thrown for defensive holding, and another 21 for illegal contact.

That worked out to an average of five such penalties per game. Still, it wasn’t until the Steelers played the New York Giants last night that it truly sunk in for me just how significantly the league’s new rules emphasis on holding penalties on both offense and defense outside of the five-yard box would impact the games.

The Steelers somehow managed to stay clean, at least when it comes to interference penalties in the secondary; however, the Giants nearly managed to match the per-game average previously set all by their lonesome.

Check out the transcript of the play-by-play to see what kind of impact these penalties had on the game:

2-5-PIT 25 (8:36) (No Huddle) 5-B.Gradkowski pass incomplete deep right to 11-M.Wheaton. PENALTY on NYG-31-Z.Bowman, Illegal Contact, 5 yards, enforced at PIT 25 – No Play.

3-6-PIT 24 (13:45) (Shotgun) 3-L.Jones pass incomplete short left to 10-M.Bryant (28-J.Hosley). PENALTY on NYG-28-J.Hosley, Defensive Pass Interference, 12 yards, enforced at PIT 24 – No Play.

1-10-PIT 35 (15:00) 3-L.Jones pass incomplete deep left to 10-M.Bryant (28-J.Hosley). PENALTY on NYG-28-J.Hosley, Defensive Pass Interference, 47 yards, enforced at PIT 35 – No Play.

3-10-PIT 41 (2:12) (Shotgun) 3-L.Jones sacked at PIT 35 for -6 yards (66-J.Stanton). FUMBLES (66-J.Stanton), touched at PIT 42, recovered by PIT-15-J.Brown at PIT 44. 15-J.Brown to PIT 45 for 1 yard (48D-C.Fenner). PENALTY on NYG-36-B.Jackson, Defensive Holding, 5 yards, enforced at PIT 45.

The Steelers managed to convert twice on third down because of some handsy Giants defensive backs, including a third down late in the game in which Landry Jones was sacked and fumbled. While the Steelers recovered, the defensive holding penalty negated the play and gave the Steelers an automatic first down.

The officials also didn’t hesitate to toss the laundry on a deep pass to Martavis Bryant in which it appeared the receiver was the first to reach his arm backward to initiate contact, and it resulted in a 47-yard gain.

It’s important to remember, of course, that this is also the preseason for the officials, meaning that they, both collectively and as individual units, are working to establish the parameters of this new rules emphasis.

It’s possible that the officials are erring on the side of caution in the early goings and will adjust with more leniency going forward.

As I wrote earlier this year, former head of officiating Mike Pereira reminded us all that the last time this was made a point of emphasis a decade ago, such penalties skyrocketed from 79 the year prior to an astounding 191. The story of the 2014 season is yet to be told, but hopefully it can be written with less penalties this time.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • SteveM2

    Your analysis is well-done, Matt. It’ll be interesting to see how these new illegal contact rules play out for the officials, the teams, and the overall NFL game, particularly in crucial game situations.

  • NW86

    I really hope they scale back a little when the season gets here. As it is right now, it’s impossible to play defensive back in the NFL. If a WR realizes he’s not going to catch the ball, all he has to do is run into the DB and it becomes a penalty on the DB.
    Let’s let them play football.

  • JohnB

    Making Joe Flaccos special move a lot easier.

  • Bill

    It’s good that this emphasis is being employed at this time. Defensive backs, like everybody else, must play by the rules. As time goes, by enforcement of the rules seems to fade. In addition, the enforcement of the rules should be uniform throughout the season and post season. I don’t subscribe to the lament: “let them play football” as a means for circumventing the rules. If the league wants more aggressive secondary play then they should change the rules rather than ignore infractions on a selective basis. I believe the main ingredients for the success of the Seahawks against the Broncos in the Super Bowl were pressure on Manning and all sorts of illegal contact and interference in the secondary. The same could be said for the Patriot victory over the Colts in that snowy playoff game a few years back. Please give us the same rule enforcement for every game all year long!!

  • Bill

    And the way you play defensive back without breaking the rules is to jam and cover the receiver and break up the pass. Any secondary can be a great by declaring open season on the receivers as they run their routes. Simply put, it takes a better athlete to play DB according to the rules.

  • SteelCitysFinest

    I hope the refs are consistent, the last few years it seemed to be called different on a weekly basis.

  • Over the last couple of seasons, it seemed like to me that some of the savvy veteran CBs got away with a little more jersey grabbing. Whereas, guys trying to guard Megatron would get flagged for anything. TBH, I liked seeing a little jersey grabbing go unnoticed, I just wrote that off as “football”. Maybe I’m in the wrong for that though. I think them placing an emphasis on this is probably the right call, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. It’s definitely a hard thing to judge live. Being more consistent on the penalty call is a better way to make the penalty as a whole more consistent, if that makes any sense.

  • 2443scott

    i can easy see some one who the nfl has changed the rules for as far as qbs go to throw close to 6000 yards this year more flags thrown the more the coaching staff will have those guys backing off of close coverage on wrs because of flags so that leaves more down the field catches