The Colts defense and special teams forced three turnovers last against the New York Giants. Only one of them counted. That's because both of the others - an interception by Darius Butler and a fumble recovery by Mike Adams - were called back due to a penalty for illegal contact.
I haven't gone back and re-watched the film quite yet, and honestly with the non-HD, sub-par broadcast that preseason games are in, I'm not going to enter the debate about whether they were good calls or not. What I do know, however, is that there were too many of them last night, and that there have been too many penalties league-wide, too.
The Colts were flagged 13 times last night against the Giants, yet only 5 in the first game against the Jets. Still, through two preseason games, the Colts have averaged 9 penalties per game. Last year, the Colts were the league's least penalized team, getting flagged just 67 times all year and averaging just over 4 penalties per game. That means that so far this year, the Colts have been penalized five times more per game on average than last year, and that includes 13 last night.
To add to that, the Giants were flagged 13 times last night too, a total of 26 penalties in the game. One game. And that's actually right along with the league norm this year. In Friday's games, 86 penalties were accepted across four games - an average of 21.5 penalties accepted per game. The Saints/Titans game saw 32 penalties accepted. And people have taken notice.
"The NFL, though, has gone too far this time. The madness has to stop," wrote the Boston Globe's Ben Volin. The Phinsider's Kevin Nogle agreed, writing that, "The games are hard to watch when every few plays, there's a flag flying and slowing down the rhythm of the game. It drags out the game, and turns the referees into the story." Bleeding Green Nation's Brandon Lee Gowton wrote that, "it's disappointing that this is how the NFL is choosing to operate. I'm all for player safety, but I'm not sure that slowing the game down to a stand-still with excessive penalties is the best way to go about it. Especially when players insist they're not going to change how they play. It just really takes the fun out of watching the game."
As fans and as media, we can tell this is not good and that something needs to change. But to their credit, coaches aren't using it as an excuse. Chuck Pagano is no different. "We've got to do a better job and we'll continue to do that," Pagano said in a media conference call Sunday. "We understand the points of emphasis, what they are. Certainly, 13 penalties last night and you had the illegal contacts and things like that, so we've got to do a great job of continuing to emphasize to our guys because they made a huge point of emphasis and we've got to play within the framework of the rules."
"We're going to be aggressive and try to get our hands on people. They're going to give you a healthy five yards is what they talk about, then you've got to shadow and you've got to cover and you've got to use great technique and things like that. So we will continue to stress that because we saw last night firsthand big play opportunities, turnovers negated because of some of those penalties."
Pagano continued talking about this when he was asked whether the adjustment was tougher for his defense because they play aggressive, and Pagano replied that, "We've got to do a great job putting them in situations in practice and stressing the fundamentals and techniques, and how it's being officiated right now, and just continue to stress that. We're not going to change our mentality as far as how we play defense and how we want to play defense."
Chuck Pagano isn't making excuses for the 13 penalties Saturday night but rather says that the coaches need to do a better job of getting the players ready for the stricter calls this year - but at the same time, Pagano said the rash of calls isn't going to change the way the Colts play defense.
Something has to change. Pagano might be taking the high road, like other coaches are doing, but as a defensive coach I'm sure he feels the same way. The number penalties this year are ridiculous, and it's making some of these games hard (and not fun) to watch.