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Stephon Gilmore, N’Keal Harry among most penalized Patriots during the 2020 season

Related: Progress report: How did the Patriots’ draft class fare in 2020?

Arizona Cardinals v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

There is no denying it, the New England Patriots’ 2020 season was a disappointment. The team played inconsistent football on both sides of the ball and as a result missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. However, not all was bad for the squad during its 7-9 campaign. The Patriots, for example, were one of the most disciplined teams in the league throughout the season.

With only one game remaining in the 2020 playoffs we can already say that New England will finish the season at the very bottom when it comes to penalties. The Patriots were flagged only 62 times over their 16 games this year, ranking last in the league in total penalties, penalty yardage lost (534) and penalty percentage when measured against the number of plays (2.62% on 2,363 plays).

With that being said and by using data compiled by NFLPenalties.com, let’s find out who are the players responsible for the Patriots’ infractions this season split up by offense, defense and special teams (numbers are split up by where a player saw his most snaps):

Offense

2020: Offensive penalties

Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
N'Keal Harry WR 4 4 0 30 Offensive Holding (2), Offensive Pass Interference (1), Illegal Block Above the Waist (1)
Joe Thuney G 3 3 0 30 Offensive Holding (3)
Jakobi Meyers WR 3 3 0 20 False Start (2), Offensive Holding (1)
Jakob Johnson FB 3 3 0 19 False Start (2), Illegal Double-Team Block (1)
Shaq Mason G 2 1 1 10 Illegal Use of Hands (1), Offensive Holding (1)
Isaiah Wynn OT 2 1 1 5 False Start (1), Offensive Holding (1)
David Andrews C 1 1 0 10 Offensive Holding (1)
Michael Onwenu OT 1 1 0 10 Offensive Holding (1)
Justin Herron OT 1 1 0 5 Ineligible Downfield Pass (1)
Devin Asiasi TE 1 1 0 5 False Start (1)
Damiere Byrd WR 1 0 1 0 Illegal Shift (1)
NFLPenalties.com

After being penalized 45 times during the 2019 season, the Patriots saw just 27 infractions called against their offense in 2020 (22 on specific players plus five more on the entire team). The number one culprit was again a wide receiver: after Julian Edelman led the unit with seven flags last year, N’Keal Harry took over the top spot with four penalties: the former first-round draft pick was flagged twice for holding and once for offensive pass interference and an illegal block above the waist.

Harry did have some encouraging moments during his second year with the Patriots, but he still failed to live up to his status as a former first-round draft pick. His penalties also played a role in this.

Defense

2020: Defensive penalties

Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Stephon Gilmore CB 6 5 1 76 Defensive Pass Interference (4), Defensive Holding (2)
Adam Butler DT 5 3 2 15 Defensive Offside (3), Encroachment (1), Defensive Holding (1)
Jason McCourty CB 3 3 0 52 Defensive Pass Interference (1), Defensive Holding (1), Illegal Contact (1)
J.C. Jackson CB 3 2 1 12 Offensive Holding (1), Defensive Pass Interference (1), Defensive Holding (1)
Terez Hall LB 2 2 0 24 Lowering the Head to Initiate Contact (1), Face Mask (15 Yards) (1)
Kyle Dugger S 2 2 0 23 Defensive Pass Interference (1), Illegal Contact (1)
Chase Winovich LB 2 2 0 20 Illegal Blindside Block (1), Neutral Zone Infraction (1)
Terrence Brooks S 2 2 0 15 Defensive Pass Interference (1), Illegal Block Above the Waist (1)
Deatrich Wise Jr. DE 1 1 0 15 Unnecessary Roughness (1)
Myles Bryant CB 1 1 0 15 Unnecessary Roughness (1)
Anfernee Jennings LB 1 1 0 15 Illegal Blindside Block (1)
Devin McCourty S 1 1 0 5 Neutral Zone Infraction (1)
Jonathan Jones CB 1 1 0 5 Defensive Holding (1)
Ja'Whaun Bentley LB 1 1 0 5 Neutral Zone Infraction (1)
John Simon LB 1 1 0 5 Neutral Zone Infraction (1)
Josh Uche LB 1 1 0 5 Neutral Zone Infraction (1)
Isaiah Mack DT 1 1 0 5 Illegal Use of Hands (1)
Akeem Spence DT 1 1 0 2 Neutral Zone Infraction (1)
NFLPenalties.com

Patriots defenders were flagged 48 times in 2019, a number that dropped to 37 one year later (35 called on specific players plus two more on the entire team). The player that stands out is cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was penalized a team-high six times: Gilmore was flagged for pass interference four times and twice because of defensive holding. When going through them, however, we can see that three of his DPI calls came over the first three weeks of the season. Afterwards, Gilmore settled down again while also returning to his usual shutdown levels.

All in all, the Patriots defense played a disciplined season despite fielding plenty of young players. The team’s rookies, however, combined for only four defensive penalties all year — with Kyle Dugger’s two infractions leading the group.

Special teams

2020: Special teams penalties

Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Justin Bethel CB 4 4 0 29 Offensive Holding (3), Defensive Offside (1)
Joejuan Williams CB 3 2 1 12 Defensive Holding (2), Offensive Holding (1)
Matthew Slater WR 1 1 0 10 Illegal Block Above the Waist (1)
NFLPenalties.com

Justin Bethel did not just lead the Patriots’ kicking game unit in snaps, but also in penalties: the veteran was flagged four total times — all of them holding calls. The most prominent call against the unit did not come against Bethel, however, but in Week 12 against the Arizona Cardinals: rookie linebacker Anfernee Jennings was flagged for an illegal blindside block to negate a Gunner Olszewski punt return touchdown.

In general, though, New England’s kicking game operation played a clean and efficient game all season.