|Patriots remain one of the least-penalized teams in the NFL||12.14.10 at 9:44 pm ET|
One of the contributing factors in the Patriots’ recent success has stemmed from the fact that they’ve been playing close to penalty-free football. New England has committed just 11 penalties in the last four games (including just one penalty each in wins over the Colts and Jets), and is now fourth-best in the league when it comes to assessed penalties with 65, behind only the Falcons with 49, the Dolphins with 55 and Colts with 64. (The list does not include declined penalties.) In addition, the Patriots have lost 602 penalty yards, 12th in the NFL.
As a group, the most penalized position is defensive back, where the Patriots have taken 18 penalties for 229 yards — close to half the total yardage assessed against the team this year. The most frequently penalized defensive back is rookie corner Devin McCourty, who has been flagged five times for a total of 45 yards. However, Brandon Meriweather has lost the most penalty yardage for New England — the safety has been flagged three times for a total of 77 yards, including a 38-yard defensive pass interference penalty against Pittsburgh, the most penalty yards the Patriots have taken on one play this year.
The second-most penalized position for the Patriots is tight end, where the trio of Alge Crumpler, Rob Gronkowski (five penalties for 40 yards each) and Aaron Hernandez (three penalties for 25 yards) has picked up 13 penalties for 105 yards.
When it comes to impactful penalties (penalties of more than 10 yards), Meriweather has three (a 15-yarder for a personal foul and two for defensive pass interference, one for 24 yards and another for 38 yards), as does cornerback Darius Butler (three defensive pass interference penalties for 23, 16 and 13 yards). In addition, linebacker Tully Banta-Cain has two, both of which were 15-yard flags for unnecessary roughness. McCourty also has two longer than 10 yards, a 16-yarder for defensive pass interference and an 18-yarder for the same reason.
The least penalized position? The defensive line, which has taken just one penalty for zero yards this season — a defensive offsides penalty on Mike Wright. Other than that, they have been clean. A close second are the running backs, who have picked up just one penalty, a 15-yarder on BenJarvus Green-Ellis because of a chop block against Pittsburgh.
When it comes to notable players who have avoided penalties, two names really stand out — defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo, two players who have played just about every snap this season who have yet to pick up a single penalty. In addition, running back Danny Woodhead, who has become an integral part of the offense since his arrival in September, has yet to account for a single penalty this season. Other key position players like wide receiver Wes Welker, safety Pat Chung and offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly have picked up only one penalty all season.
While the 65 penalties rank among the fewest by any team in the league, they won’t be the most flag-free team of the Bill Belichick Era. Remarkably, the 2008 Patriots finished the season with 57 penalties, the fewest since the strike-shortened season of 1982, when New England had 49 in nine regular-season games.
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