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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

2021: Offensive penalties

Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Isaiah Wynn OT 9 8 1 65 Offensive Holding (5), False Start (3), Illegal Use of Hands (1)
Jonnu Smith TE 6 5 1 40 Offensive Holding (4), False Start (2)
Shaq Mason G 4 4 0 40 Offensive Holding (2), Illegal Blindside Block (1), Ineligible Downfield Pass (1)
Hunter Henry TE 4 3 1 15 False Start (3), Offensive Pass Interference (1)
Michael Onwenu OL 3 3 0 25 Offensive Holding (2), False Start (1)
Kendrick Bourne WR 3 3 0 25 Offensive Holding (1), Illegal Block Above the Waist (1), False Start (1)
David Andrews C 3 2 1 20 Offensive Holding (2), Taunting (1)
Ted Karras G 2 2 0 15 False Start (1), Offensive Holding (1)
Jakobi Meyers WR 2 2 0 15 False Start (1), Offensive Holding (1)
Jakob Johnson FB 2 2 0 15 False Start (1), Offensive Holding (1)
Justin Herron OT 2 2 0 20 Offensive Holding (2)
Mac Jones QB 2 2 0 14 Intentional Grounding (1), False Start (1)
Trent Brown OT 1 1 0 15 Unsportsmanlike Conduct (1)
Brandon Bolden RB 1 1 0 15 Unnecessary Roughness (1)
James Ferentz G 1 1 0 10 Offensive Holding (1)
Gunner Olszewski WR 1 1 0 5 False Start (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

2021: Defensive penalties

Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Matthew Judon LB 8 6 2 60 Defensive Holding (2), Roughing the Passer (2), Unnecessary Roughness (1), Running Into the Kicker (1), Defensive Offside (1), Neutral Zone Infraction (1)
J.C. Jackson CB 5 5 0 46 Defensive Pass Interference (3), Defensive Holding (1), Illegal Blindside Block (1)
Deatrich Wise Jr. DE 4 4 0 46 Unnecessary Roughness (1), Horse Collar Tackle (1), Roughing the Passer (1), Defensive Offside (1)
Jalen Mills CB 4 3 1 52 Defensive Pass Interference (3), Defensive Holding (1)
Kyle Van Noy LB 3 3 0 41 Neutral Zone Infraction (2), Defensive Pass Interference (1)
Dont'a Hightower LB 2 2 0 12 Horse Collar Tackle (1), Illegal Contact (1)
Joejuan Williams CB 2 2 0 6 Defensive Holding (1), Offensive Holding (1)
Myles Bryant CB 2 2 0 30 Unnecessary Roughness (2)
Carl Davis DT 2 2 0 10 Encroachment (2)
Justin Bethel CB 2 1 1 10 Illegal Block Above the Waist (1), Defensive Pass Interference (1)
Kyle Dugger S 2 1 1 46 Defensive Pass Interference (1), Disqualification (1)
Daniel Ekuale DT 1 1 0 15 Face Mask (15 Yards) (1)
Adrian Phillips S 1 1 0 10 Offensive Holding (1)
Lawrence Guy DT 1 1 0 6 Illegal Formation (1)
Josh Uche LB 1 1 0 5 Defensive Offside (1)
Ja'Whaun Bentley LB 1 1 0 5 False Start (1)
Christian Barmore DT 1 1 0 5 Encroachment (1)
Davon Godchaux DT 1 1 0 5 Illegal Use of Hands (1)
Jonathan Jones CB 1 0 1 0 Defensive Holding (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

2021: Special teams penalties

Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Player Position Total penalties Accepted Declined/Offsetting Penalty yards Penalties
Brandon King LB 3 3 0 29 Offensive Holding (1), Unnecessary Roughness (1), Defensive Offside (1)
Chase Winovich LB 1 1 0 10 Offensive Holding (1)
Cody Davis S 1 1 0 10 Offensive Holding (1)
Matthew Slater WR 1 1 0 6 Unsportsmanlike Conduct (1)
Joe Cardona LS 1 1 0 5 False Start (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.