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Patriots Benefit from Referees Calling Penalties

So please disregard what happened last week against the Jets. Please go back to the narrative that all penalties go the Patriots way.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows that the league loves Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and would do anything to help him win a game.

Wait, scratch that.

Everyone knows that Patriots owner Robert Kraft has the referees in his pocket and will request that the competition committee focus on rules that would limit his main rivals defensive strategy.

Wait, wait, that's not right.

Everyone knows that quarterbacks are the cornerstone of every franchise and there is none more beautiful pampered than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Other than the fact that Brady definitely doesn't receive any preferential treatment when it comes to roughing the passer calls, maybe if the Patriots received more beneficial penalties while on offense, I'd believe it. Luckily for us disgruntled Patriots fans, there are websites dedicated to tracking all of these numbers.  Who'd have thought?

The numbers that come out are quite interesting. All links will be to last year's data, although this season's is freely available as well. "Beneficiary" means that the team benefit from the penalty.


Roughing the Passer

Look who sits at the top as having benefit from the most roughing the passer calls per game? Old friend Miami, who benefit from seven RtP calls last year. Other teams near the top feature mobile quarterbacks like the Panthers, the Eagles, and the Redskins. The Patriots rank all the way down in 21st overall.

The website also has a neat little column on where the penalties were called. All three "Roughing the Passer" calls against the Patriots happened at home. So much for home field advantage.

Special sympathies to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo as there were no roughing the passer calls on hits against him last season.

Delving further back, the Patriots have benefit from five roughing the passer calls between 2010-2012. The Dolphins had more than that last season alone.


Defensive Pass Interference

How about the refs helping out the Patriots down the field on botched plays? The referees clearly helped out on the pass interference against Rob Gronkowski up the seam (there's no question that was a bad call), and the Patriots probably benefit from similar calls over the past few years.

And look at the numbers! In 2012, the Patriots benefit from second most pass interference calls in the league, with 14. Nevermind the fact that the top team (Ravens, 16), and the other teams at the top (Colts, 14; Broncos, 13; Dolphins, 12; Giants, 12; Bears, 11; Packers, 11; Jets 11) all feature similar pass-heavy offenses. And nevermind the Patriots have been called for the 5th most defensive pass interference calls in each of the previous three seasons. The refs definitely are out to help the Patriots.

The Patriots actually benefit the second least on these calls in their Super Bowl season of 2011, with the opposition getting called only three times through the regular season and the playoffs.



Instead, let's just look at the whole picture. T stands for team, O stands for offense. All numbers from a beneficiary standpoint:

Team 2010T 2010O 2011T 2011O 2012T 2012O 2013T 2013O AverageT AverageO
Dolphins 5.25 3.06 7.00 4.44 7.56 3.69 6.00 3.86 6.52 3.75
Packers 6.35 3.35 7.35 3.71 7.50 3.44 7.86 4.00 7.18 3.57
Peyton 5.76 2.47

7.71 4.06 6.25 2.88 6.64 3.19
Steelers 5.58 3.16 5.94 2.94 6.25 3.19 6.14 3.43 5.95 3.14
Jets 4.53 2.74 6.88 2.94 6.81 3.50 6.13 3.13 6.08 3.07
Bills 5.31 3.81 5.19 2.00 5.00 2.88 7.63 4.00 5.52 3.05
Patriots 5.12 2.71 6.84 3.47 6.11 2.72 7.25 3.50 6.20 3.04
Falcons 7.18 2.53 6.35 2.71 5.17 2.61 7.00 3.71 6.34 2.77

That's a table of comparable teams, as well as the rest of the AFC East. Look who receives the fewest beneficial calls while on offense in the entire AFC East?


It's one thing to be annoyed at the bad calls benefiting the other team. It's another thing entirely to fabricate an entire narrative stating that one team consistently receives an unfair advantage with the help of the referees and the league. The Patriots received their share of breaks against the Dolphins, just like they had things go against them the prior week. That's just the human error aspect of football as the referees have to make quick calls for the safety of the players.

The Patriots absolutely do not benefit any more than the average team in football from poor calls. If anything, they receive less help.

But hey. Don't let the numbers get in the way of your opinion.