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A Flag-Happy Preseason - Here to Stay?

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Week 1 of the 2014 Preseason showed plenty of yellow fabric in flight.

Kevin C. Cox

Atlanta had too many penalties against Miami. It was hard to watch, but they weren't even close to being the only team that struggled. Four games had more than 20 penalties. The first 16 games of the 2013 preseason had no games with more than 17 penalties. It was a noticeable difference, and not one that I welcome.

The NFL will admittedly focus on specific penalties this year. As an introduction to the policy, referees registered 27 Illegal contact penalties during the first week of preseason games. Compare that to the 38 during the entire 2013 season (including playoffs). This got me curious: do penalties normally occur at a higher rate during the preseason?

See the table below showing 2013 - 2014 preseason week 1 penalties, as well as the 2012 and 2013 seasons:

Period Penalties Yards Pen Per Game Yds per Game
2012 Preseason Week 1 203 1,779 12.7 111.2
2012 Season 3,319 28,077 12.4 105.2
2013 Preseason Week 1 185 1,654 11.6 103.4
2013 Season 3,245 28,029 12.2 105.0
2014 Preseason Week 1 283 2,226 17.7 139.1

The previous two years don't show a significant difference between the preseason and actual season. However, penalties per game are up 46% compared to the 2013 season, and penalty yards per game are up 33%. Out of the 16 games played, only 3 had less than 100 penalty yards, with the lowest being 84. By comparison, 2013 had 9 games with less than 100 penalty yards (low of 40); 2012 had 8 games (low of 50).

I certainly hope the difference reflects a corrective measure, forcing emphasis on the change in officiating. As with many other parts of the game, we would expect a learning curve. But this is not the first year in which the league changed it's position on penalty calling. I will be watchful in the behavior as it relates interrupting the game, and I sure hope we see the rate fall back in line with previous years.

Are you concerned about the penalties across the NFL or the Falcons specifically?