Trou­bling trend of penal­ties adding up

Play­ers frus­trated; team tied for most in­frac­tions in NFL

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

The frus­tra­tion is pal­pa­ble, and it’s not only be­cause of the Ravens’ three-game los­ing streak.

Sure, the los­ing streak is a thorny is­sue, but this topic — which might be a lead­ing cause of the losses — is what seem­ingly irks Ravens play­ers and coaches most.

The big­gest tar­get of the play­ers’ with­er­ing com­ments af­ter the 27-23 loss to the New York Gi­ants on Sun­day was their pen­chant for ac­cu­mu­lat­ing penal­ties.

“That’s what’s killing us,” wide re­ceiver Mike Wal­lace said. “We’re just do­ing it to our­selves. We elim­i­nate that, and we’re just a way bet­ter foot­ball team. We put way too many hours in. We’re there ev­ery sin­gle day. The coaches do a re­ally good job of go­ing back and go­ing over the plays we might have got­ten a penalty on. There’s noth­ing more they can do. The play­ers, we have to take own­er­ship of not get­ting the penal­ties and killing our drives, killing our team.”

Said rookie left tackle Alex Lewis, who com­mit­ted back-to-back penal­ties Sun­day: “That’s hard to win games when you’re shoot­ing your­self in the foot. It’s just some­thing we’ve got to clean up and we’ve got to prac­tice. We’ll get there.”

The Ravens (3-3) are tied with the Oak­land Raiders for the most penal­ties in the NFL with 52 and rank eighth in penalty yards at 403. Thirty-four of those trans­gres­sions and 281 of those lost yards have oc­curred in the team’s past three games. Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Pick

This year’s team is on pace for 138 penal­ties, which would be just one short of the fran­chise record set in 2005. The Ravens have com­mit­ted100 or more penal­ties each of the past four years.

This sea­son, the Ravens have been flagged for hold­ing 15 times, false start eight times and de­fen­sive off­side and de­lay of game four times each. It’s a trou­bling trend that has elicited strong state­ments from coach John Har­baugh.

“Those have got to be fixed,” he said Mon­day. “You don’t jump off­sides, and you line up the right way. That is the big­gest is­sue we have on of­fense. I think the ques­tion was asked, ‘Why did we bog down?’ Well, it’s be­cause of that. We’re sit­ting there at fir­stand-20. So it will con­tinue to be ad­dressed, and it will get cor­rected be­cause we have to play win­ning foot­ball. You can’t lose the game if you want to win.”

Here’s a look at how penal­ties have hurt the Ravens in each of their past three losses. Week 4: 28-27 loss vs. Oak­land Raiders: Nose tackle Bran­don Wil­liams jumped off­side on fourth-and-1 from the Ravens 20-yard line. The Raiders got a first down and three plays later scored a touchdown for a 21-12 ad­van­tage. Later, a taunt­ing call on Wal­lace af­ter he caught a pass for a 2-point con­ver­sion al­lowed the Raiders to be­gin at their 34; they then went on a six-play, 66-yard drive for the game-win­ning score.

“We had a lot of penal­ties to­day,” right guard Mar­shal Yanda said that day. “They’re tough on our of­fense to over­come, but we have to over­come them, no mat­ter what. We’re go­ing to have penal­ties in the game. We just have to find a way to over­come them, some­how, some way.” Week 5: 16-10 loss vs. Wash­ing­ton Red­skins: De­fen­sive back An­thony Levine Sr. was cited for an il­le­gal block above the waist in the fourth quar­ter. It wiped out a 16-yard punt re­turn by Devin Hester Sr. that would have set up the of­fense at the Ravens 44. In­stead, the unit was forced to be­gin from the 17 on its fi­nal se­ries and ended up 21 yards short of the end zone.

“We shot our­selves in the foot,” run­ning back Ter­rance West said af­ter the game. “Penal­ties put us in a hole. First-and-20, and things like that can af­fect the game, the punt re­turn. Things like that can change the game.” Week 6: 27-23 loss vs. New York Gi­ants: A hold­ing penalty on tight end Crock­ett Gill­more pushed the of­fense out of Justin Tucker’s field­goal range in the sec­ond quar­ter. A hold­ing call and false start on Lewis turned sec­ond-and-10 from the Ravens 37 into sec­ond-and-25 from the 22 in the third quar­ter. And a de­lay-ofgame on quar­ter­back Joe Flacco on the sec­ond-to-last play of the day forced the of­fense to try to score the game-win­ning touchdown from 29 yards out.

“When you’re in a close game like this, those are the lit­tle things that com­pound and put you in a sit­u­a­tion where … in­stead of tak­ing a knee to win the game, you’re in a sit­u­a­tion where there’s a Hail Mary toss-it-up, and you’re try­ing to win that way,” strong safety Eric Wed­dle said. “Those are the things that kill you. It adds up at the end of the game.”

Wide re­ceiver Ka­mar Aiken said the play­ers have to take in­ven­tory of them­selves when try­ing to de­ter­mine the source of the penal­ties.

“You just got to dig down in­side and do a gut check on your­self, and fig­ure out why,” he said. “Who­ever that per­son is mak­ing the penal­ties, why am I mak­ing those penal­ties? Is it tech­nique? Is it this? Is it that? And just go to work on it.”

Some coaches have used forms of pun­ish­ment to break play­ers of bad habits. Har­baugh de­clined to elab­o­rate on what the Ravens use.

“We have a dis­ci­pline sys­tem in place, a very ef­fec­tive one,” he said.

Asked whether he would con­sider fin­ing play­ers for their trans­gres­sions, Har­baugh replied: “You can’t do that. That’s against NFL rules.”

Then he of­fered up a bit of mirth. “I’d be all for it,” he said with a smile. “I would def­i­nitely be all for a fine jar. Yes. That’s a good sug­ges­tion.”

LLOYD FOX/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

In the loss to the Gi­ants on Sun­day, a de­lay-of-game penalty on Joe Flacco forced the of­fense to try to score the game-win­ning touchdown from the 29.

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