Saints are “disturbed” by failure of penalties called against their opponents

New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers
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For every team that is impacted negatively by a penalty called against it, another team benefits. And when teams complain about excessive penalties called against them, the teams that benefit from fouls called against opponents never say a word.

The Saints have something to say, at least privately for now, about the extent to which NFL officials have called fouls against the teams are playing. Via Mike Triplett of, the Saints have finished 30th, 31st, 32nd, and tied for 31st in penalties called (both accepted and declined) against their opponents in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 20201. Four straight seasons.

The most significant non-call of the past four seasons came three years ago yesterday, when officials inexplicably failed to call defensive pass interference against the Rams, after cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman wiped out Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived in the closing minutes of the NFC Championship.

Per Triplett, no other team has finished that low in three straight years since 2001. The Packers, from 1970 through 1973, finished in the bottom three of opponents’ accepted penalties.

Triplett writes that the Saints declined to comment on this trend, but he reports that the team is “aware and disturbed” by what transpired.

Michael Silver (who likely wouldn’t have commented on the issue while employed and paid by the league office) notes that there’s a “0.007725 percent chance of this happening.” He opines that the Saints should be “furious.”

As best we can tell, the Saints are closer to furious than disturbed. It suggests that, for whatever reason, game officials have a bias against the Saints when it comes to calling penalties on the teams they are playing.

If it’s a coincidence, it’s one hell of a coincidence. If it’s not a coincidence, well, perhaps Congress should be addressing more than the Washington Football Team workplace misconduct investigation.

79 responses to “Saints are “disturbed” by failure of penalties called against their opponents

  1. Could be a statistical outlier, data doesn’t always tell the story. However 3 years is a good span to judge by. Im torn in 2 directions. 1 if you’re a Saints fan I’d say you’re allowed to scream at the walls and fume over this and scream conspiracy!! 2. However I must admit I’m so sick and tired of hearing wah wah wah the refs did it, it was their fault not ours that this falls on deaf ears with me. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Lions fan and not a Saints fan but this elicits no outrage from me.

  2. Without getting to analytical, I would just say it seems like the more teams that play in blowout games the less is called in these games. All the teams in the list have either been offensively good or offensively awful, *the jets for example.

    I think that’s where I’d investigate more to rule these possibilities out.

  3. Before commenting on this report I would like to know where their division opponents ranked in penalties committed during the same period, as those games made up 37.5% of their schedule.

  4. Also a defense that dives at knees like the Saints are probably going to be perceived as the bad guys whether intentionally or not.

  5. I’d also be interested in how many times each season the Saints had more penalties/yards than their opponent – and how that stacks up with other teams. If a team (say the Raiders or Cowboys) routinely have more penalties called on them than their opponent, then suddenly play a “cleaner” game against the Saints – that’s weird.

  6. Or it could be coaching and undisciplined players? Nah has to be a conspiracy theory…Anyone who has watched a saints game has likely seen a blatantly obvious penalty called on CJ Gardner-Johnson and announcers commenting how he’s physical and so forth and you see it multiple times, well with that style comes the penalties.

  7. Started with the exaggerated bounty gate by Goodell to save the league from concussion lawsuits, which by the way every team has some form of it. Stats don’t lie, Saints embarrassed the officials from the big no call game and it’s been payback ever since….

  8. dhahn-wolf says:
    January 21, 2022 at 7:54 pm

    Here we go again…Always someone else fault.

    You’re confusing New Orleans with Dallas

  9. Yet another reason for a professionalized, full time officiating cohort. Get the amateurs and the part timers out of this multi-billion dollar business.

  10. Hard to get worked up about a bad four year trend for a team in black and gold when there’s a conspicuous 40 year trend going against a team in black and silver.

  11. Sunday Awami needs to read the article again. It’s not about penalties called on the Saints, it’s the lack of penalties called on their opponents.

  12. The Bills have been in the bottom quarter of the league in called penalties for 10 of the last 11 seasons. For whatever reason, these reputations exist and the refs act accordingly.

  13. Dang. I thought only the Bills had to beat both their opponent and the officials. My bad.

  14. Their has never been a team in all of professional sports that complains as much as the Saints year in year out!

  15. If this were the case and there was at least a couple different head coaches maybe there would be a red flag but there wasn’t. Sounds like a discipline problem to me.

  16. Give it a rest. If you have a problem, talk to your owner. That’s who owns the league. If they’re ok with it, then they’re ok with it. The league is making a ton of money. I’m guessing most comes from TV revenue. I loved the season. Very exciting. Most teams were alive for the playoffs for just about the entire season. Meaningful games draw a much bigger TV audience. A modern system for refereeing could easily be used which would eliminate any bad calls and do so without slowing the game down. The technology has been available for years. They’re also breaking revenue records every year. So, if a coach has a problem, he just has to talk to the guy that signs his check. He owns the league. Your owner tells Goodell what to do.

  17. What’s next they will blame officiating on Taysom Hill not being a franchise QB?

  18. More numbers are needed for context. Such as: How consistent other teams’ rankings have been, where their division rivals rank, how their opponents’ average penalties change when they play the Saints, etc.

    Looking at the table in the article, the difference in penalties between the Saints and the team at #5 is less than one penalty per game. Not meaningless, but would be interesting to see the full list. Also, most of the teams in the top 5 are the same over the last 4 years.

  19. What’s worse? Whining about factual data that seems to imply things are not fair? Or those of you whining about their whining? I’ll leave it for you to discuss while I snuggle my dog and my lady in front of the fireplace—that’s called living. Y’all whine all day! That’s called something they won’t print here.

  20. Yall literally cant be adults about this for one moment. Not ONCE. Take your blinders off, my goodness. You’d think you all would realize this is bigger than one team at this point..

  21. Once again people have been given actual facts and can’t understand them. Half the responses here are by people who seem to have failed reading comprehension.

    If the Saints opponents are not being flagged for 4 years straight it’s clear and obvious bias against the Saints by the league. There is no other explanation.

  22. I don’t have a dog in this fight because I’m not a Saints fan but there is something to it. Can’t be a coincidence.

    Similar view regarding the league going after Gruden and the Raiders & Washington

  23. Bottom Line is NFL is CORRUPT as HELL….

    NOW they are doing GAMBLING COMMERCIALS????

    GIVE a F’n Break…IT’s Fixed

    “We gotta protect Tommy”

  24. awww…the poor a’ints….lets go back to their theft of the NFC Championship game from the Vikings with all the no-penalties called against the A’ints when there were plenty of obvious PI no-calls….

    All so they could win the SB…at home….after Katrina….

  25. Saints aren’t exactly a model franchise though. They were caught headhunting. Maybe they still do it.

  26. If Roger Goodell gets hit by the most cars of anyone in the league 4 years in a row we will be even.

  27. I don’t believe in coincidences. This just stinks and another black eye on the league. Just like the Gruden emails and the WFT. When they want to protect a team or punish one they do just that without any repercussions.

  28. The most obvious scenario is that Saints teams are not causing the opponents to commit penalties at the rate other teams do. The next most likely is some form of bias. Dismissing the most likely scenario in favour of the second most likely because people like conspiracies isn’t science.

  29. As a 49er fan… I was disturbed when your DC Gregg Williams paid/encouraged your team to take out Alex Smith. What I’m trying to say is wah wah wah. You reap what you sow.

  30. The Saints cheated for several years with an illegal bounty program so they are in no position to complain about anything!

  31. Does it feel like a bounty against your team? Are you being targeted for money? Karma Saints …

  32. Obviously the Saints own habits could be to blame. Opponents may need to hold them less than other teams. They might not struggle as much with their WRs. Etc. But let’s go straight to league-wide conspiracy against the Saints.

  33. Goodell hates Sean Payton and small market teams. But, he especially hates Sean Payton.

    The NFL is not “rigged” per se, but it’s pretty clear that the league does play favorites or tilt the scales every now and then. The seemingly random lengths of suspension for various players…the mysterious Gruden-only email leak, the blatant no-call that kept the Saints from the Super Bowl, the bounty gate penalties (Saints were just a scapegoat for the CTE lawsuit), and many more events, whether Saints related or not.

    I don’t think the NFL is “rigged”…but I do believe that, in some instances and certain games, the league does what it can to help certain franchises while it does what it can to hold others back. It doesn’t guarantee certain outcomes, but subtly “encourages” certain outcomes.

  34. The Saints literally have proof of unfair officiating and all the haters on here can do is dismiss it. THREE seasons worth of data and a bad call stopping us from going to the Super Bowl.

  35. This post and its conclusions (including the 0.007725% chance figure) are are only valid if penalties are statistically random events. They’re not. Good wide receivers can draw more PI calls. Good QBs can induce more offsides penalties. A good pass rush can lead to more holding calls. Perhaps the explanation is as mundane as the Saints have recently been, on average, worse than other teams at the kinds of plays that cause their opponents to commit fouls? The other explanation is that all the different officiating crews across the league are actively colluding against the Saints, which seems unlikely. No one invokes conspiracy theories when a team is near the bottom of the league in scoring for a few years in a row. Why should inducing penalties be any different?

  36. Hilarious, the Saints are routinely guilty of holding by the O and both holding and illegal low hits by their D and barely a flag is thrown against. They’re barking up the wrong tree here.

  37. Everyone saying Saints are whining obviously either didn’t read the post(stat came from ESPN, not the Saints) or have no reading comprehension abilities

  38. Saints are the most dirtiest team in the league. They still have the bounty gate going on. Now they cry that their opponents aren’t being flagged enough. Maybe it’s because they don’t commit penalties like the Saints do

  39. Did anyone look at the games to determine if there actually were penalties not called for the Saint? (Besides the obvious one)

    Because if this is only build on quantitative statistics, then the Saints are the constant.

    Do they have an d-line so weak that there are no reason for the other teams to hold?
    Do they have receivers so bad that there are no reason for PI?
    Do ther have etc…

    The statistic raises some questions, but there needs to be a deeper dive into this before and conclusions can be made.

  40. Maybe the Saints should watch last years Superbowl i think the Chiefs were called for like 15 penalties in the first half alone. NFL had had to make sure Tommy the legend made history.

  41. 09 NFCCG Pete Morelli. You have your only title by the corrupt NFL officials. The Marcello mob assured that win. The NFL is more corrupt then the NBA. Cheating was verified in the 70’s. Documented. By NFL refs. Pete Morelli definitely did in 09. So every team has been bent over by the officials.

  42. Lol at all of the keyboard statisticians who don’t get that this has a pretty low statistical probability of occurrence over 2 straight seasons, yet it has happened 4 seasons in a row.

    More data isn’t needed to figure out that something stinks here. This is yet another indictment of NFL officiating in a season that has been filled with them.

    It is time to address and repair officiating in the NFL. Full stop.

  43. ghjjf says:
    January 22, 2022 at 12:30 am
    The Saints cheated for several years with an illegal bounty program so they are in no position to complain about anything!

    8 9 Rate This

    The Broncos cheated in 1995, 1996 and 1997, as the greatest cheating scandal in NFL history with the cap, hiding Elway and Davis’s contracts paid out under the table.

    They had free agency advantages over all other teams.

    Way worse than a bounty program.

    Goodell has lied for over a decade from everything about CTE to domestic abuse, rape and lying about what the Pats never did/not coming clean about why punishes NE for no reason as Mike Tomlin cheats during a game with no punishment at all.

  44. I’m amazed of how many people came here to defend NFL officiating because “Saints deserve it”. Half of the commenters are saying it’s the Saints fault their OPPONENTS consistently play the cleanest game because what? The Saints aren’t good enough to force teams to create penalties?? Yeah, that’s not the smartest take when you consider the Saints are one of the winningest teams over this period. Failure to see how this issue affects the integrity of officiating and how that has or could affect your own team is what makes many of you so easy to manipulate. That’s exactly what the NFL is counting on.

  45. NFL should have full time officials. They should be spending the week practicing and watching film. They should also do post game press conferences to explain controversial calls.

  46. Worst example I ever saw of this was the 2013 and 2014 Seahawks. During each of those 2 seasons their opponents while playing the Seahawks were penalized the lowest in the league. That means that the chance of this happening was 1 out of 32 and then again 1 out of 32 (2 consecutive years). The odds of that happening are virtually zero. Refs those 2 years were only looking to call penalties on Hawks and not their opponents. It’s never happened in the history of the NFL other than this 1 time.

  47. My problem with the Saints is the fact that this team is always behind dirty plays. They are the Ravens of the NFC. Their defense tried to destroy Chris Godwin, Kendall Hunter, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Brett Favre. They have also won games over bad calls. Get over it.

  48. I’d be interested to see where the Eagles rank. I recall several games with absurd discrepancies. In a 2016 game in Detroit, Philly was penalized 14 times to Detroit’s 2 times. I’ve also seen a lot of rarely-called penalties, such as “inducing a false start.” Last week, they didn’t call at least two late hits on Hurts, but called Roughing the Brady for no reason (and a bogus hold on Kelce). It’s not that it affected the outcome (Eagles were awful)…but it is frustrating to watch.

  49. New Orleans needs to change from the Saints to the Whiners. This franchise cannot accept its own responsibility for their pathetic performance as of late.

  50. I’m by no means suggesting refs or umps or lj’s are justified in their actions, but i wonder:

    Does any of this have to do with how Payton screams at and berates the refs every game?

    Again, not saying it’s right for the refs.

    But maybe they dislike him because of his disposition. I get that being an NFL head coach is an intense job, but i’ve noticed over the years that Payton yells at the refs like no ohter. The ref’s aren’t supposed to be biased by stuff like that, but they’re humans and I imagine that even if you don’t think you’re doing it, you’re more likely to throw a flag against the person who just chewed you out. For the record I’m a Miami fan…so I live in misery and have no dog in this fight.

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