Eagles blame themselves for a surfeit of penalties

Posted: August 23, 2012

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - His quarterback was bruised and his defense was battered, but Eagles coach Andy Reid's most ardent ire in the minutes after Monday's 27-17 preseason victory over New England was reserved for penalties more than performance. The Eagles committed 16 penalties for 131 yards, giving them 22 penalties in two preseason games.

"That's obviously too many penalties," Reid said. "It's tough to win football games in the regular season with those kind of penalties."

The flags elicited a litany of unflattering adjectives from the players, from "sloppy" to "undisciplined." Any mention that the penalties were the by-product of preseason rust was not viewed as a worthwhile excuse, because four of those penalties were personal fouls.

Defensive end Darryl Tapp was charged with two of the personal fouls. One of them, a roughing-the-passer call, came after what he called a "poor decision"; the other, for unnecessary roughness, Tapp defended by saying he was standing up for a teammate.

But Tapp was also quick to acknowledge the problem with the penalties. He said the Eagles must "sharpen our all-around judgment," and he pointed to himself.

"Twenty-two penalties is ridiculous," Tapp said. "Yes, we got the win, but 22 penalties, as a team; we got to tighten up. Me personally, I got to tighten up."

Linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who did not commit a penalty but is the leader in the middle of a defense, said the Eagles must learn to play smarter. His main problem was penalties committed on third downs.

During the Patriots' 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the first half, the Eagles could have escaped on the third play when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie nabbed an interception on third and 7. Instead, the interception was nullified because Fletcher Cox was charged with roughing the passer. Three plays later, Trent Cole recorded a sack on third and 7 that would have forced a punt. Instead, Nnamdi Asomugha was flagged for defensive holding, and the Patriots received a first down.

It is impossible to discuss penalties this preseason without acknowledging those who are throwing the flags. The NFL's regular officials are locked out, and the league is using replacements. The replacement officials' mistakes have become an issue around the league, although the players refused to attribute the high penalty total on Monday to the fill-ins.

"We want to blame the refs, but at the end of the day, that's on us," offensive tackle King Dunlap said. "They're out there doing their job. We know they're not normal refs, but we should be able to go out there and play a clean game like we were supposed to."

One flag that could be understood was an illegal-substitution penalty on an extra point in the second quarter. Such a penalty might not have occurred in the regular season, when only 46 players are activated and roles are more defined. The Eagles played 76 players.

"Special teams is the biggest nightmare for substitutions during the preseason," Reid said. "You've got guys that you don't want in, you want to see this guy and that guy, and keeping track of them, so you know, we did that."

But that was only one of the Eagles' 10 first-half penalties, when the starters all played. Those are players who should know better, and that was why veteran tackle Todd Herremans said the Eagles played "undisciplined football" and were "atrocious with the penalties."

In 2011, two of the four most penalized teams (Detroit, San Francisco) made the playoffs. The least penalized team, Indianapolis, had the NFL's worst record.

Still, Reid was adamant that the penalties would cost the Eagles. It was his first message to the team after the game, and the players pledged to rectify the errors.

"If not," Tapp said, "it'll be a long season."


Contact Zach Berman at  zberman@phillynews.com. Follow @ZBerm on Twitter.

 

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