The NFL has made illegal contact and defensive holding a “point of emphasis” in 2014, which is a fancy way of conceding that the officials have been failing to apply the rules as written, and that the league finally has done something about it.
The officials did something about it last night. According to former NFL V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira, Thursday night’s six-pack of preseason games included 25 fouls for defensive holding and nine for illegal contact.
The Seahawks emerged unscathed in their rematch with the Broncos, a surprising development given that the point of emphasis undoubtedly resulted from the Legion of Boom’s strategic decision to push, pull, grab, tug, and/or shove receivers beyond the five-yard chuck zone, with the assumption that the officials won’t risk bogging down the game by throwing a flag every time it happens.
The league hopes that the officials won’t have to bog down the games that count, and that the players will adjust during the preseason and early in the regular season. The last time the NFL admitted that the rules regarding illegal contact and defensive holding weren’t being enforced, the fouls climbed from 79 in the entire 2003 regular season to 191 in 2004.
At last night’s rate of 34 flags in six games, the 2014 regular season will include 1,450 flags for illegal contact and defensive holding.