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.