The NFL has made illegal contact and defensive holding a point of emphasis for 2014, which is a diplomatic way of saying, “We haven’t been applying the rules as written. Sorry.”
The Seahawks should be the ones apologizing. Their strategic decision in 2013 to push and shove and grab and hold on pretty much every passing play dared officials to turn games into penalty party. They didn’t then; they are now.
And while the Seahawks apparently have made the adjustment, with only three illegal contact fouls and no defensive holding penalties in two preseason games, an illegal contact penalty called on cornerback Tharold Simon wiped out his interception and 105-yard touchdown return. (It was a different kind of illegal contact than the blow to the head that got Simon ejected from last week’s game against the Broncos.)
“To be honest, I think it was a very bad call,” Simon said after Friday night’s game against the Chargers, via Terry Blount of ESPN.com. “I know for a fact I didn’t initiate [contact]. He has one hand on me, but I know they are trying to emphasize that call, so it’s OK with me, for right now.”
Coach Pete Carroll wasn’t ready to call the call a bad one.
“The official said that [Simon] had his hands on him seven yards down the field instead of five,” Carroll said. “I’ve got to see it again, but I thought it was a perfectly executed two-hand jam, press, and turn and roll with the ball. It was a great play. We’ll see if it was seven yards down the field. I don’t know. If it was, it was a legit call.”
Even though Carroll’s team hasn’t been victimize by Flag Fest 2014 (yet), Carroll realizes it quickly is becoming an issue for the NFL.
“It doesn’t seem quite right,” Carroll said. “It seems like there are too many calls being made and too many incidental calls that seem to be affecting the game, so we’ll see.
“It’s obviously different. So the question is, is it better? I don’t know. Hopefully we’ll have a good conversation about it.”
The conversation will likely go like this: The rule will now be enforced as written. Adjust or force us to throw flag after flag after flag.
As Eagles coach Chip Kelly said after a 21-penalty extravaganza at Gillette Stadium, the teams that adjust and play with discipline will succeed in the current climate. But since it’s the officials who are getting the blame for throwing the flags and not the players and coaches for committing the fouls, teams could be tempted to keep pushing the envelope once the regular season starts, in the hopes that the officials eventually will push the flags deeper into their pockets for fear of incurring the wrath of fans and making the games last too long.