Patriots notice role of penalties in glacial pace

Patriots notice role of penalties in glacial pace
August 16, 2014, 6:00 am
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FOXBORO -- Darrelle Revis played just two defensive series in Friday night's preseason game against the Eagles, but he looked exhausted afterward. His eyes were half bloodshot and his answers were deliberate.

When asked, he said he couldn't remember how teammate and fellow corner Malcolm Butler played.

"It was a long game," he said. "It was really a long game. It was very long. It was very long and sometimes you lose your attention to detail."

Indeed, those standing on the sidelines watching the Patriots and Eagles weren't immune to tuning it out by the end. Thanks in part to 29 flags thrown, New England's 42-35 win lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours.

"How long was this game?" Patriots defensive back Kyle Arrington asked. "It was really long? Longer than usual? They're trying to emphasize a few rules here and there. We just gotta do our best to try to comply."

The rules to which Arrington was referring were those against defensive holding and illegal contact in the secondary. Of the nearly thirty flags thrown, nine were tossed for defensive holding, illegal contact or pass interference.

In all, 21 penalties were enforced -- 10 were assessed to the Eagles and 11 to the Patriots. Though New England and Philadelphia had referees at their joint practices this week at Gillette Stadium, it was clear that players were still getting accustomed to how closely those penalties would be whistled.

"We've always said do business as business is being done," said Arrington, who started the game at safety. "If they're calling the game tight then we just have to modify on our end, just as far as the grabbing and things like that go."

"I don’t know how many penalties it was," Revis admitted. "It was a lot, just watching the game and going through it. But I don’t know. It was a lot, but at the same time, the refs are going to call what they see."

It was the Eagles who were stung more by the yellow hankies in the secondary as they were called three times for defensive holding, twice for illegal contact and twice for pass interference. But Patriots defensive backs saw their Eagles counterparts get whacked time and again for free chunks of yardage and came to a conclusion summed up by Revis: "Can't touch 'em," he said. "They're going to throw the flag."

Eagles coach Chip Kelly was even more colorful in his reaction to the number of penalties called.

"Those are the rules, and we’ve got to play by them," he said. "And whoever ends up being the most disciplined team in this league is going to win, but the rule is not going to change . . . I don’t think on tomorrow or Sunday, Roger [Goodell] is going to say, ‘Hey we’re going to change it.’ We’ve got to learn to not get our hands in people’s faces, and we’ve got to understand that after five yards it’s illegal contact. And if you can’t play within the rules, you can’t play in this league."

For Kelly, the up-tick in calls had little to do with the new emphasis on certain rules. His players were simply screwing up things they've been taught since at least last year if they were on the Eagles roster.

"We don’t teach people to grab receivers after five yards downfield, and if that becomes your go-to move and that’s what you’ve got to do, you can’t play," he said. "You’ve got to figure that out . . . We’ve got to understand that that’s going to be called, and if that’s going to be called, then you’ve got to fix it.

"You don’t have to agree with the speed limit, but if the cop’s out there with a speed gun, you better take your foot off the gas or he’s going to pull you over. It’s the bottom line. Rules are rules, and you’ve got to follow them."

The referee of Friday's game, John Parry, said earlier this week that he believed by Week 1 that the number of flags thrown would go down. Whether it's because the players figure out the rules or the officials lighten up on them, something has to give.

When even people on the sidelines realize that a game has taken too long to finish because of penalty calls, can fans at home and in the stands be blamed for checking out, or nodding off into unconsciousness?