Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Dec 2008

UPDATED: FO Mailbag: Opponent Penalties

Rocco Columbus: Is there any way you can determine which teams have had the most flags thrown against their opponents? The information about which teams have been flagged the most is interesting but it would be nice to see if certain teams get more calls than other teams.

Doug Farrar: The handy-dandy FO penalty database can indeed disseminate that information. Through Week 15, the Giants have had the most penalties called against their opponents with 124 (all numbers include declined and offsetting). The Falcons, Ravens, 49ers, and Vikings round out the top five. If you're playing the Colts, you're apparently doing so very cleanly -- only 65 flags on their opponents. The Seahawks, Raiders, Jaguars and Bills follow at the bottom of the list.

Most Opponent Penalties
Team
Penalties
Yards
NYG
124
850
ATL
120
876
BAL
116
678
SF
115
819
MIN
112
883
Fewest Opponent Penalties
Team
Penalties
Yards
IND
65
448
SEA
71
531
OAK
75
535
JAC
77
581
BUF
78
468


The Falcons have the best penalty differential, with 72 called against them and 120 on their opponents, yielding 359 fewer penalty yards (25.6 yards per game). The Pats are next, with their league-low 58 penalties dwarfed by the 96 of their opponents. They pick up 170 penalty yards on their opponents. The Giants (25 penalties; 74 penalty yards), Bengals (24/111) and Bears (18/142) finish out the top five.

Not surprisingly, the Raiders bring up the rear with a -48 penalty/-254 penalty yards disadvantage. Next comes Jacksonville (-28/-144), Green Bay (-24/-260), Dallas (-22/-243), and Indianapolis (-18/101).

Some individual penalty notes based on the most frequently called infractions:

Opposing False Start (Most): San Francisco (30), Atlanta (28), Chicago (26), New York Giants (25), St. Louis (23).

Opposing False Start (Fewest): Indianapolis (10), Pittsburgh (11), Jacksonville (11), Green Bay (11), Buffalo (12).

Opposing Holding (Most): Minnesota (26), Carolina (24), Atlanta (23), Pittsburgh (20), Tampa Bay (20).

Opposing Holding (Fewest): Arizona (8), Chicago (10), Seattle (10), Kansas City (11), New Orleans (11).

Opposing Defensive Offside (Most): New York Giants (19), Cincinnati (16), Baltimore (14), San Francisco (14), Buffalo (14).

Opposing Defensive Offside (Fewest): Seattle (2), Dallas (3), Indianapolis (4), Oakland (4), Carolina (4).

Opposing Unnecessary Roughness (Most): Denver (11), Chicago (10), Pittsburgh (8), Minnesota (8), Indianapolis (7)

Opposing Unnecessary Roughness (Fewest): St. Louis (1), Jacksonville (2), Washington (2), Oakland (2), Philadelphia (3).

Opposing Defensive Pass Interference (Most): New York Jets (12), New York Giants (10), Minnesota (8), San Francisco (8), Houston (8).

Opposing Defensive Pass Interference (Fewest): Tampa Bay (1), Washington (1), Miami (1), Buffalo (2), New Orleans (2).

UPDATE: This article reveals that Steelers opponents haven't been called for offensive holding in 24 quarters on a non-special teams play. What's interesting is that the last player to get flagged, Chris Samuels, got it three times in one game (two were declined). I thought this was interesting, so I went back and checked something.

Through Week 15, there have been 377 offensive holds on non-special teams plays. From Week 1 through Week 9 (the week of the Samuels hold), 224, or 24.9 per week. From Week 10 through Week 15, 153, or 25.5 per week. When you factor early byes in, that's a pretty even count. So there weren't fewer holds, just none called against the Steelers' opponents.

This really piqued my interest, so I checked the first half/second half opponent holds for the current top ten teams in Adjusted Sack Rate.

Dallas

Weeks 1-9: 10
Weeks 10-15: 1

Minnesota

Weeks 1-9: 8
Weeks 10-15: 14 (four of those were called on Jacksonville's Tony Pashos in Week 12)

Pittsburgh

Weeks 1-9: 12
Weeks 10-15: 0

Philadelphia

Weeks 1-9: 6
Weeks 10-15: 1

New York Giants

Weeks 1-9: 8
Weeks 10-15: 4

Oakland

Weeks 1-9: 8
Weeks 10-15: 3

New York Jets

Weeks 1-9: 3
Weeks 10-15: 8

Tampa Bay

Weeks 1-9: 11
Weeks 10-15: 5

Carolina

Weeks 1-9: 14
Weeks 10-15: 9

Detroit

Weeks 1-9: 8
Weeks 10-15: 5

Some curious numbers in several cases.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 20 Dec 2008

21 comments, Last at 21 Dec 2008, 6:42pm by Todd S.

Comments

1
by pm :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 3:47pm

I'm surprised the Colts are at the bottom of opposing offsides penalties. It seems like Peyton Manning does a good job of snap counts and forcing opponents to jump.

2
by Temo :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 3:58pm

Alternatively, perhaps it was that stadium they used to play in that caused all those offsides. And now, they play in Lucas Oil, which is not nearly as loud (at least on TV).

Edit: Just realized you're talking about defensive offsides. I was looking at offensive offsides, which follows a similar pattern.

3
by JAZ :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 4:22pm

It must run in the family.

According to an announcer (Aikman?) during a recent game, Eli spent a lot of time working on his hard counts in the past year and that--combined with the cohesion and discipline of an offensive line that has had stable, healthy personnel for a couple years now--seems to be paying dividends.

From watching this year Eli certainly seems to be drawing a lot of the offsides with the hard count. More importantly, the demons from that 11 false start game in Seattle in 2005 seem finally to be excised.

4
by Todd S. :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 5:04pm

Doug, this is an interesting post. As a follow-up, is there any year-to-year correlation on this, or is it random? I'm curious to see if this might be a case of non-predictive events hurting/helping a team for a year and then disappearing the following year.

Maybe it doesn't matter since Cincinnati is in the top list and Dallas and Indy find themselves near the bottom.

5
by Doug Farrar :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 5:38pm

Quick-n-Dirty most/least opponent penalties per season from 2004 through 2007:

2004 Most: Arizona, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, New England
2004 Least: Jets, Seattle, Washington, Tennessee, Baltimore

2005 Most: Giants, Denver, New Orleans, Dallas, Minnesota
2005 Least: Tennessee, Kansas City, Green Bay, Kansas City, Cleveland

2006 Most: Chicago, Seattle, Minnesota, Jets, Detroit
2006 Least: Jacksonville, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Indy, San Francisco

2007 Most: Giants, Arizona, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota
2007 Least: Miami, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Houston, Miami

12
by Dales :: Sat, 12/20/2008 - 12:09pm

Yow.

So in 2005, 2007, and so far in 2008, the Giants have topped the league in opponent penalties. How does 2006 look? Obviously, they were not top 4. How low or high did they rank?

But 3 of 4 years topping the league? We may have uncovered a hidden (or at least underappreciated) skill of Eli Manning.

ETA-- and by "we" I mean Doug.

21
by Todd S. :: Sun, 12/21/2008 - 6:42pm

Thanks!

6
by Robo-Pope (not verified) :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 6:08pm

The Steelers are one of the best sack teams and defensive teams overall, and are tied for second-fewest false starts against. This is odd.

7
by John Doe (not verified) :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 6:33pm

Perhaps their opponents have less snaps than usual, due to the Steelers excellent defense. A rate stat (penalties on the opposing team per snap) would probably show a different story.

8
by JasonK :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 6:35pm

They're also a ball-control offense, which shortens the game and gives the oppoenent fewer offensive snaps (and thus fewer opportunities to commit false starts).

9
by troycapitated p... :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 8:33pm

I was surprised to see the Steelers among the leaders in offensive holding calls against the opposition-- not because I don't think they hold- uncalled holding versus James Harrison has been a common occurance of late-- but because it's been something like 23 consecutive quarters since the last one was called on a Steeler opponent. They must have been calling it a lot earlier in the season...

The last time it was called was the first quarter against Indianapolis and that was on a punt return.

10
by drobviousso :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 8:36pm

Yup, I was expecting the same thing.

11
by troycapitated p... :: Fri, 12/19/2008 - 9:48pm

This was going to be an edit, but perhaps too much time passed?

Anyway, I heard the number 23 quarters on the radio, but, as I looked back at the play-by-play of the Steeler games after posting, I see that it was not correct. Offensive holding was also called twice against New England when they played the Steelers- once in the 1st quarter and once in the 3rd quarter on punt and kick returns, respectively. That makes 3 offensive holding calls against Steeler opponents in the last 6 games.

You have to go back to the game against Washington to find offensive holding called on an offensive snap by a Steeler opponent. Washington was the Steeler opponent most penalized for holding- a whopping 5 calls, or 25% of the total, 2 of which were declined.

Philadelphia and Jacksonville were each flagged 3 times, so 11 of the 20 calls came in those 3 games. Of those 11, only 3 were on returns, so of the remaining 9 holding calls against all other Steeler opponents, 5 came on returns and 4 came on offensive snaps. In 11 games. 5 Steeler opponents received no holding penalties.

Of the 20 holding calls against Steeler opponents, 3 come on running plays, 8 come on kick or punt returns, and 9 come on passing plays.

13
by Dales :: Sat, 12/20/2008 - 12:10pm

I think, but am not sure, that you can't edit a comment after someone has replied to it. So, by me replying to your comment, you probably cannot edit it any longer.

14
by Doug Farrar :: Sat, 12/20/2008 - 12:24pm

UPDATE: This article reveals that Steelers opponents haven't been called for offensive holding in 24 quarters on a non-special teams play. What's interesting is that the last player to get flagged, Chris Samuels, got it three times in one game (two were declined). I thought this was interesting, so I went back and checked something.

Through Week 15, there have been 377 offensive holds on non-special teams plays. From Week 1 through Week 9 (the week of the Samuels hold), 224, or 24.9 per week. From Week 10 through Week 15, 153, or 25.5 per week. When you factor early byes in, that's a pretty even count. So there weren't fewer holds, just none called against the Steelers' opponents.

This really piqued my interest, so I checked the first half/second half opponent holds for the current top five teams in Adjusted Sack Rate.

Dallas

Weeks 1-9: 10
Weeks 10-15: 1

Minnesota

Weeks 1-9: 8
Weeks 10-15: 14 (four of those were called on Jacksonville's Tony Pashos in Week 12)

Pittsburgh

Weeks 1-9: 12
Weeks 10-15: 0

Philadelphia

Weeks 1-9: 6
Weeks 10-15: 1

New York Giants

Weeks 1-9: 8
Weeks 10-15: 4

Minnesota aside, I'd say there's something going on here.

15
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Sat, 12/20/2008 - 2:43pm

What is this suggesting? That O-linemen gets "smarter" (=better) or the pass-rush worse?

Maybe the muddy fields can be attributed to some (probably not it all) of the difference, thus slowing speed-rushers down? I mean a five game sample-size can be radically scewed by one or two in-door-games, if you can see where I'm comming from..

16
by Greg (not verified) :: Sat, 12/20/2008 - 2:57pm

Yes, Offensive linemen have gotten smarter and hold less, especially around my neck.

Signed,

Dwight Freeney

19
by drobviousso :: Sun, 12/21/2008 - 12:10am

Have you watched any of these game? During the last few steelers game, they have been showing some blatant holding (hanging on his back, arm around helmet, pulling him down) during the broadcast. Even the (allegedly) huge homer Troy Aikmen chuckled and admitted Harrison was getting held a lot in the game vs Dallas.

The numbers do seem to indicate *something*. I'm curious what that something is.

20
by Robo-Pope (not verified) :: Sun, 12/21/2008 - 2:11pm

It's suggesting that the officials are calling fewer holding penalties against their opponents.
What's the rate of holding penalties called on those teams during those splits? That should be able to tell us whether it's mostly a function of officials who don't call many holds in general or officials for some reason not wanting to call holding penalties for very good pass-rushing defenses.

18
by JasonK :: Sat, 12/20/2008 - 7:45pm

Could it just be a function of these teams repeatedly drawing officiating crews who tend to throw fewer holding flags?

17
by ernie cohen (not verified) :: Sat, 12/20/2008 - 4:44pm

This sounds like a perfect thing to ask Mike Pereira about. (Show some footage, etc.)