Ravens causing the flags to fly

The Baltimore Sun

Coach Brian Billick created controversy this week when he suggested that some of the Ravens' penalties were the result of "illegal" tactics by the New York Jets.

But that was just one team, one game.

How does he explain a problem that has lasted for seasons?

The Ravens have become one of the NFL's most penalized teams, ranking in the top 10 in penalties for three of the past four seasons. During that time, only one team - the Oakland Raiders - has been in the top 10 more than the Ravens.

This unwanted trend has continued this season for the Ravens, who lead the NFL with 21 penalties. The next closest teams are the Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys with 18 apiece.

The biggest problem this season is the disparity.

In two games, the Ravens have been penalized 186 yards while their opponents have been penalized 51 yards, a difference of 135 yards.

In terms of field position, the Ravens are giving up more than a football field.

These penalties also have come critical at times for the Ravens, even if they consider the flags to be questionable.

In the season opener at Cincinnati, tight end Todd Heap's disputed offensive pass interference penalty negated a tying touchdown. Earlier in the fourth quarter, safety Ed Reed was called for pass interference against Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson on a two-point conversion when it looked as if Johnson initiated contact. (Cincinnati converted on its second try.) In Sunday's win over the New York Jets, cornerback Samari Rolle's pass interference penalty for 26 yards was the biggest play in a fourth-quarter drive that resulted in a field goal.

Two series later, when the Jets faced a third-and-16, defensive back Gerome Sapp was called for holding that gave the Jets an automatic first down. A couple of drops by receiver Justin McCareins saved the Ravens from going into overtime.

For the most part, it's tough to point the finger at one player or one position this season.

The offense and defense have committed eight penalties each (special teams has five). The offensive line and secondary both have five.

In fact, 16 players have received flags, which shows how much this has been a team effort.

Even though the Ravens have had success despite the number of penalties over the years, it's tough to continually beat the odds.

In the previous four seasons, 60 percent of teams that finished the season in the top 10 in penalties had losing records. Only 23 percent made the playoffs.

The Ravens have to realize it's easier to win when they're not beating themselves.


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