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Patriots Greatly Affected by Illegal Contact

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The Patriots have been getting in trouble with the new focus on rules- but not in the way you would think.

Jim Rogash

The league's crackdown on the rulebook has spawned waves upon waves of disapproving fans. It's the Peyton Manning treatment, some say; no one is allowed to breathe upon receivers, never mind touch them. Flags on flags on flags and it makes football unwatchable, especially knowing that the referees have every intention of calling the regular season in the same fashion.

So clearly the Patriots newly physical secondary will be left hung out to dry as the importer Legion of Boom alum Brandon Browner will be unable to thrive.

When watching the unwatchable games, it's true that the flags are thrown after too many plays- but the Patriots secondary is actually faring pretty well. Reviewing the gamebooks shows that the Patriots do have a trouble with penalties and it's coming everywhere but the secondary.

In the first game against Washington, the Patriots were flagged for 12 penalties. Three were on the secondary (Browner, Logan Ryan, Nate Ebner) for some version of illegal contact. This past week against the Eagles, of the 14 penalties, the secondary was flagged for one illegal contact penalty (Pat Chung).

Some teams are giving their players tennis balls in practice to prevent the secondary from grabbing jerseys. It looks like whatever the Patriots are doing is working just as well.

The real issue could be in the trenches, where illegal contact hurts just as much, but hasn't been drawing the same ire from fans. The offensive line and the defensive front seven were flagged for four illegal contact (hands to the face, holding, etc.) penalties against the Washington. That number ballooned to eight against the Eagles (albeit in nearly double the snaps).

Offensive linemen have accounted for eight of the 12 total penalties, which shows an obvious point of coaching interest.

Mental mistakes are also crucial (offsides, high/low tackles, personal fouls), with the team racking up 10 over the past two games, five apiece (including one on Mr. Bill Belichick).

It seems that there's room for improvement all over the field and that the Patriots secondary has adjusted to the new rigor of penalties fairly well. If we are to complain about the penalties, it seems that the trenches and the coaches should receive more of our focus, instead of the secondary.