Troubling trend of penalties adding up
Players frustrated; team tied for most infractions in NFL
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.”
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.