A decade ago, the NFL made illegal contact and defensive holding a point of emphasis based in part on complaints from former Colts G.M. Bill Polian that Patriots defensive backs were manhandling Peyton Manning’s pass-catchers. Now, the NFL is re-emphasizing the point of emphasis.
As explained by FOX’s Mike Pereira on Twitter, a former NFL V.P. of officiating, illegal contact and defensive holding will be a point of emphasis in 2014.
As a practical matter, it’s the Legion of Boom rule. In 2013, the Seahawks brazenly committed illegal contact and holding, knowing that, if illegal contact happens on every play, the officials won’t throw a flag on every play. In an intriguing segment that aired on NBCSN’s NFL Turning Point, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman was displaying to a teammate on the practice field techniques for concealing illegal contact.
This year, the officials may be far more inclined to throw flags. Per Pereira, the 2004 push to stop defensive backs from pushing and tugging and shoving receivers resulted in an increase in illegal contact fouls from 79 to 191.
That will lead to more intriguing comments from Sherman, especially in light of what he said in January.
“The game was allowed to be played physical, and that’s why you had so many run games,” Sherman said regarding the way the NFL used to be. “That’s an old school brand of football. I don’t know how old the rules are, but since these rules have come, you look up and every receiver, every play they could drop a wide-open pass and turn around and look for a flag. I think that kind of ruins the game. That kind of ruins the intensity, the whole DNA of football and what it is if you see flags every single play.”
Pereira notes that the Legion of Boom rule will be offset by an emphasis on offensive pass interference. “Not an even trade in my opinion,” Pereira notes.
Despite Sherman’s and Pereira’s desire for the current state of affairs to remain in place, the Seahawks will stop committing so much strategic illegal contact if the flags fly often enough to get the message to the defensive backs that the officials will indeed risk slowing the game to a crawl if the Seahawks hope to take advantage of the reluctance to make a game last much longer than it should.
Of course, telling the officials to throw the flag more often in a conference room won’t necessarily result in more flags being thrown during games. But it worked in 2004 — it could work again in 2014, making it harder for the Seahawks to repeat.
The good news for Seattle is that, a decade ago, the Patriots won the Super Bowl for a second straight year, even with the renewed emphasis on mugging Manning’s teammates.