SEATTLE – So much for Flag Day only being a holiday in June.
As expected, the Seahawks – and the rest of the NFL – have endured an avalanche of penalty flags on each exhibition game day through two preseason weekends. Entering Sunday’s two exhibition games plus tonight’s Cleveland-Washington tune-up, each NFL team had an average of 9.5 penalties accepted against it per preseason game.
That’s up from the 6.1 flags per game each team averaged during the 2013 regular season.
In the four exhibition games played Friday night – including Seattle’s 41-14 victory over San Diego – officials assessed a total of 86 penalties for 702 yards.
This is the predictable result of the league instructing its officials to focus on particular “points of emphasis.” That’s a term teams already know all too well – and fans have already come to despise, as evidenced by derisive Twitter hashtags related to #pointofemphasis.
Illegal contact by defensive backs on eligible receivers beyond 5 yards past the line of scrimmage, taunting and cursing after plays, hands to the facemask or helmet and elaborate celebrations are the main acts the league is targeting.
“It doesn’t seem quite right,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of all the flags.
Carroll said he’s already been discussing with the league possible tweaks to this new way of calling games in time for the regular season beginning Sept. 4.
“They’re open to the conversation about how it’s going,” Carroll said of league executives.
Carroll joked it was “a big deal for us” that Seattle’s eight penalties in the Chargers exhibition went for only 48 yards – “cut by a third,” he said of the penalty yardage. That was one week after the Seahawks had 13 flags for 131 yards in Denver.
The Seahawks’ 21 penalties against them in two exhibitions was tied with Chicago and the New York Jets for seventh-most in the league.
Seattle led the NFL with 128 flags in the 2013 regular season, an average of eight per game.