Expect a few flags to fly when Seahawks, Patriots meet – USA TODAY
PHOENIX — The Seattle Seahawks led the NFL with 130 penalties assessed against them in the regular season. The New England Patriots weren’t far behind with 120.
Yet here they are in Super Bowl XLIX. Teams sitting at home include the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had a league-low 73 penalties but finished 3-13.
The Seahawks and Patriots will aim to keep their infractions to a minimum Sunday. But their success is evidence that there can be a fine line between aggressive play that wins game and fouls that draw flags.
“Sometimes, you need to play fast. You’re out there playing football and having fun. You’re playing with no doubt, no fear. Penalties happen,” said Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor.
“Normally, there are those ones you kind of try to eliminate. But penalties happen sometimes.”
The Seahawks also led the NFL with 128 penalties last season but emerged with a Super Bowl title.
“I think neither teams wants to have a lot of penalties because it’s a lot of hidden yardage,” said Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis. “It can hurt you sooner or later in the game. Being a New England Patriot, we definitely want to keep the penalties to a minimum.
“But we do play aggressive. The game is so fast. Things are going to happen.”
In last year’s Super Bowl, the Seahawks played aggressive coverage against Peyton Manning and his receivers to beat the Denver Broncos 43-8. The NFL opened this season with a new “point of emphasis” in officiating, cracking down with stricter enforcement of rules governing defensive holding and illegal contact in pass coverage. Some called it the “Seattle Seahawks rule,” but the league said it was prompted by a league-wide need to consistently enforce existing rules.
The Patriots were second in the NFL this regular season with 22 enforced defensive holding calls; the Seahawks were ranked sixth with 16, according to The Football Database, footballdb.com.
Neither team had many penalties for illegal contact with receivers more than 5 yards beyond the line (New England had three such penalties and Seattle two).
“For us, we’re always trying to eliminate penalties. We’re always going to try to coach it and teach it the right way, the way the league wants it done,” said Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
“Whatever the numbers are, they are. But we’re trying really not to get those penalties because what happens is those penalties come up in critical times of the game when you can’t afford to have penalties.”
PHOTOS: One great shot from each Super Bowl
Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn echoed that.
“The ones that really frustrate you are the ones that are the undisciplined penalties,” said Quinn. “We don’t want to give away free yards and free downs. Like the ones that happen on third-and-2 when you jump offside (and say), ‘Ah, they got the first down.’ “
The Seahawks work on maintaining discipline to avoid such lapses.
“Each week we kind of devote a time to our video (review) of playing smart … We work hard at it, and we have for two years,” said Quinn. “But it really hasn’t improved much to be honest with you in terms of our numbers.”
So expect a few yellow flags to fly Sunday.
“I know one thing — it will be a long game,” kidded Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington, given the teams’ penalty-prone seasons despite efforts to curtail the fouls.
“That’s not something we pride ourselves on or are proud of or want to be in the top of that category,” added Arrington.
“It’s almost comes with the territory when you’re going out there and competing very hard, but that’s no excuse. You want to compete hard but also play smart. That’s something that we want to be at the top of.”
Follow Gary Mihoces on Twitter @ByGaryMihoces
PHOTOS: What’s going on at Super Bowl XLIX?