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Flags keep flying for illegal contact, defensive holding

Titans Texans Football

A penalty flag during the second quarter of an NFL Football game between the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)


If teams are going to adjust to the renewed emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding, it hasn’t happened yet.

Friday night’s six preseason games included, based on a review of the official NFL game books, 14 defensive holding penalties and 10 illegal contact fouls. The night before, six preseason games generated 25 flags for defensive holding and nine for illegal contact.

Throwing in the Hall of Fame game, which had five defensive holding fouls and two illegal contact calls, 13 preseason games in 2014 have generated 44 instances of defensive holding and 21 situations involving illegal contact.

The last time the NFL made illegal contact and defensive holding a point of emphasis (in 2004), the flags increased from 79 to 191. The early rate of five combined calls per game projects to a full-season total of 1,280.

The NFL can’t afford to have games bogged down by additional penalties. But the NFL also can’t afford to have teams blatantly commit defensive holding and illegal contact under the assumption that the officials won’t throw a flag every time it happens.