In recent weeks, the conversation surrounding the Ravens’ woes has been largely focused on Lamar Jackson’s play, the lack of a cohesive ground game, injuries, and question marks at the skill positions. All of these factors have led to the Ravens sitting at 6-3, with two of those three losses coming in close games that they truly could have (and should have) won. While those elements all loom large, it seems that nobody is discussing the ‘fun with flags’ that seems to be going on in Baltimore.
While the penalty conversation isn’t exactly the ‘sexy’ talking point, there’s truly something to be said about the Ravens’ self-inflicted wounds when it comes to a lack of discipline this season.
The overall numbers are a great place to start sounding the alarm.
- 59 accepted penalties against (5th most in the NFL)
- 548 penalty yards (5th most in the NFL)
- 38 opponent penalties (2nd fewest in the NFL)
- 298 opponent penalty yards (fewest in the NFL)
The disparity here is flat out alarming, but before you go blaming the officials and saying the zebras ‘have it out’ for the Ravens, perhaps we should take a look at how this compares to 2019 for Baltimore.
Last year, Baltimore finished 15th in accepted penalties and 17th in penalty yards, while their opponents’ penalties were the 8th fewest and the associated yardage the 5th lowest.
Yes, the opponent penalty stats are close, but in 2018 they were in the middle of the pack for both numbers, so it seems more likely that they’ve been trending in the wrong direction when it comes to drawing penalties, in lieu of continuing our history of ‘the refs hate us.’
Let’s crush one more conspiracy theory: the league favors [name a team]!
New England is the one team that’s always brought up, and it’s fair to point out that their 29 accepted penalties are the fewest in the NFL, but let’s also point out that their 48 beneficiary penalties are in the bottom third of the NFL as well. Essentially, they don’t get a lot of calls for, or against, them. We can also look at the fact that the teams with the most beneficiary penalties include the Eagles (69), Jets (63), and Bengals (59), while the Texans (39 accepted penalties), Fins (41) and WFT (46) all reside in the group with the fewest flags thrown against them.
Favoritism doesn’t exist. Let it go.
Upon a deeper dive, I wanted to see how these flags break down for the Ravens.
Based on what I could recall throughout this season for Baltimore, I threw three darts at the prediction board:
- Matt Judon is the biggest culprit
- Plenty of pre-snap (mainly illegal motion) penalties for Baltimore
- Backups filling starter roles play a major factor
For reference sake on the second point, pre-snap penalties would include all penalties drawn before the snap, not just plays blown dead before the snap. So, this includes False Start, Illegal Shift, Illegal Formation, Offsides, Encroachment, and Neutral Zone Infraction.
After a little digging, it turns out we’ve nailed two of these three predictions.
(pats self on back)
Let’s start with the biggest offender: Mr. Judon! Come on down!
Matt Judon is easily the biggest culprit this season with six accepted penalties, after jumping offsides a whopping four times (once declined as the Colts accepted a roughing the passer call instead), along with a trio of personal fouls: roughing the passer, unnecessary roughness, and the (very questionable) ejection for striking a referee in the game against the Colts.
The next closest Raven would be a tie between Orlando Brown and Marcus Peters with four penalties each, then a slew of players with three flags to their name.
Please…Just Line Up Legally!
Going back to the second prediction regarding pre-snap penalties, I’m slightly more alarmed than I thought I’d be. The Ravens have been flagged a whopping 18 times for pre-snap penalties.
And that’s just on offense.
What’s equally as frustrating is that the Ravens have been flagged six times for Illegal Formation (compared to six total in 2019), and another two times for Illegal Shifts.
Just to give you an even more frustrating snapshot, the Ravens account for 22% of all Illegal Formation penalties in the entire NFL (six of 27) and 20% of all Illegal Shifts (two of 10).
When you add the eight offsides penalties by the Ravens defense into the mix, we’re looking at 26 flags (21 accepted) thrown against Baltimore for pre-snap penalties, which accounts for roughly 38% of all penalties this season.
Lining up improperly, twitching and jumping the snap… those type of flags are definitively classified under a lack of discipline in my book.
So how many of those penalties can we excuse because they were called against a backup that’s taken on a starting role for one reason or another?
Strictly looking at the offensive line and their pre-snap penalties, D.J. Fluker (three accepted penalties), Ben Powers (1) and Patrick Mekari (1) are all seeing roles on the Ravens offensive line of late, but only Fluker is a recent issue with a pair of penalties against New England, which likely contributed to his benching. Mekari’s only penalty came against Philly, while Powers hasn’t had an infraction since the Cincy game over a month ago. Even Orlando Brown, after moving over to Left Tackle, didn’t have a penalty this past week against New England, and only has one penalty (Holding vs Indy) in the past month.
It’s not something we can simply brush off as the O-Line shuffle.
80% of the Penalties in 20% of the Games?
One more noteworthy stat I picked up from the penalty logs for the Ravens…
Baltimore has been involved in a one-score game in three of their last four outings, having lost two of those three by a combined 10 points. In those contests, the Ravens amassed 29 penalties for a whopping 306 yards, which means half of their penalties and more than half of the penalty yards came in just three of their nine games on the season.
Here’s how it breaks down:
- 33 total penalties: 29 accepted, 4 declined
- 19 offensive penalties vs 14 defensive penalties
- 10 offensive pre-snap penalties (4 False Starts, 5 Illegal Formations, 1 Illegal Shift)
- Ronnie Stanley called for three Illegal Formations, an Illegal Block & a False Start; and he only played in five out 12 quarters of these three games.
- Six different players charged with an Offensive Hold (Phillips, Mekari, Ricard, Skura, Fluker, Bozeman)
- Marcus Peters with two DPI’s and two Unnecessary Roughness calls surrendered the most penalty yardage with 68 yards (one personal foul was offsetting)
- Eight total personal fouls
- Four DPI’s
- 13 total flags against offensive linemen
I’m not sure what’s the most alarming stat there, but it’s all extremely concerning.
Recalling that these were all part of one-score games, it truly makes you wonder how the outcome could’ve possibly changed if Baltimore was playing more disciplined football with fewer mental lapses to possibly negate a handful of these penalties. Perhaps that alone would’ve been enough to overcome the other glaring deficiencies in the games against Pittsburgh and New England, but regardless, John Harbaugh needs to make sure this team understands that ‘NOBODY CARES WORK HARDER’ applies to the mental fortitude and discipline of the team as well.