New England Patriots Watch: Could Penalties Sink Team into Abyss?

Caleb AbnerContributor IIINovember 17, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 30:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers has his facemask pulled by Patrick Chung #25 of the New England Patriots at Heinz Field on October 30, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Everyone knows how tight a ship the Patriots management runs. It resembles the Death Star run by Captain Bligh, from The Bounty. It shut up Chad Ochocinco, and it got Randy Moss excited to play football for a while. Everyone is well-behaved, well-mannered, well-spoken and well-dressed.

Well, at least the last one is true, except in the case of the starting quarterback.

New England, otherwise known as "Team of the Tight Lips," has really slipped lately in one of its most significant aspects. First came Rob Gronkowski's porn star photos—though way overblown, they still should not have been posted, if at least because of the negative attention they received. Next came some of the first expletives many have ever heard Belichick utter, directed at the Jets.

Both were minor incidents, but both very uncharacteristic.

Way more important, however, is the amount of penalties the team is committing. From pass interference to false starts, the Patriots seem to be doing everything in their power to give up meaningless yards.

I have no objection to holding calls. Sometimes losing 10 yards is better than letting your QB take a nasty hit. Nor do I oppose face masks, an often accidental occurrence. I do hate to see pass interferences and false starts. A false start is five free yards. The defense buys time, and gets a better read on the offense. A pass interference immediately brings the ball to the spot of the penalty.There is no excuse for one, as waiting for the receiver to at least touch the ball before tackling gives some chance of stopping yardage.

There have been 15 false starts—the equivalent of 95 yards—and six pass interferences this year. Remember Sergio Brown's massive pass interference against the Giants, which gave them the ball on the 1-yard line with less than a minute to go in the game? The ball would have been uncatchable, and the defensive might have been able to hold the Giants and secure a win.

The last couple of years, the number of penalties per game has steadily increased, going from 3.56 a game in 2008 to 6.7 a game today. That's not a comforting trend to say the least.

Whatever the cause, something must be done. Management needs to step up their game and return to the way the team was run before, lest the penalty calls soar even further. New England needs Belichick to tighten the leash. Maybe he could crack a whip or two.