The issue of penalties has been one of the most discussed topics of the Eagles' 2009 season. Last week, the Eagles committed eight penalties for 62 yards, but they were lost in the shuffle of the team's impressive 34-7 win over the Falcons.
Penalties are crucial when they stall offensive drives, keep offensive drives alive for the opponent or negate huge returns on special teams. All three of those instances have happened this season. Still, the Eagles are 8-4 and are firmly in control of their playoff destiny. And even though penalties have been a focal point of the team's criticism this season, the numbers compared to recent playoff seasons show that there isn't a difference in terms of the sheer volume of the penalties.
Here is an overview of this year's penalties:
- Only two teams have committed fewer offensive holding penalties than the Eagles (Cleveland and San Diego).
- The Eagles are tied for third in false start penalties, but have been called for just three more than the league average.
- The defense has been flagged for just three pass interference penalties, which is below the league average.
- The defense is tied for sixth in offside penalties with 10, but the league average is seven.
- The Eagles have nine personal fouls on defense, which is third, but the top two teams would also be in the playoffs as of now (Green Bay, New Orleans).
- A lot of attention has been paid to the special teams penalties, but do not lead the league in holding or illegal block calls.
This is not to say that the coaches are happy with the penalties, or any penalty at all.
"That's something that you can control," said head coach Andy Reid. "I've told you before, there's one side of it where you've coached teams where you have to really motivate them to play hard, but this group here, there are times when you just have to back them off and tell them there's a time and a place for everything and pull back on this situation here."
And as the season has progressed, the number of special teams penalties has decreased.
"We addressed it week in and week out," special teams coordinator Ted Daisher said. "I would hope that the guys would have enough confidence in what they're doing and knowing that if they use good technique and use effort and get in good positions that they won't get a penalty and we're just going to have keep working hard at our fundamentals and get better on that."
Here's a look back at how the Eagles have been penalized since 2004:
- In 2004, the Super Bowl year, the Eagles were at the league average on offensive penalties. On defense, the Eagles were among the best in fewest pass interference penalties, but were third worst in offside penalties.
- In 2004, the Eagles' eight holding penalties on punt/punt returns led the league for most.
- In 2006, the offense was called for just six holding penalties all season, but had 28 false start infractions which were tied for third-most in the league. And in 2006, the Eagles started the same five offensive linemen for all 16 regular season games.
- The defense in 2006 was called for 10 personal foul penalties, the third-most in the league. Otherwise, the defense was right around the league average in every other category.
- With five holding penalties and four illegal block penalties on punt/punt returns, the Eagles were in the top five for most in each category.
- Last season, the offense was called for eight holding penalties (below the league average of 11) and just 13 false start penalties (tied for second fewest).
- The defense was at or below the league average in every category last season.
- On special teams, there was just one holding penalty on punt/punt returns and three illegal block flags.
The key for the Eagles moving forward, again, isn't as much the penalties, but the time and the place. With a pivotal NFC East showdown Sunday night against the Giants on the horizon, each call could be crucial. The Eagles had a touchdown wiped off the board in the first meeting on Nov. 1 thanks to a holding penalty. But the offense recovered to still score a touchdown. The Eagles took a 13-0 lead on their way to a 40-17 blowout celebration.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 10:35 a.m., December 10