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Thursday, December 23, 2010
NFC West Penalty Watch: False starts

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Third-and-7 became third-and-12 for the Seattle Seahawks when officials flagged left tackle Russell Okung for the first of two false-start penalties against him Sunday.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, admittedly vulnerable to turnovers this season when pressing to overcome difficult circumstances, tossed an interception on the next play.

The penalty hardly excuses the pick. The two weren't necessarily related. But in a division featuring teams with little margins for error, even little mistakes can be difficult to overcome.

Hours earlier Sunday, the St. Louis Rams' Billy Bajema, Jason Smith, Jerome Murphy, Jason Brown and Rodger Saffold committed false-start penalties during a 27-13 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs. Some of those penalties contributed to stalled drives, adding to a long list of problems for St. Louis.

The Seahawks' Stacy Andrews and the San Francisco 49ers' Anthony Davis lead NFC West players with six false starts apiece. Only four NFL players -- Michael Oher (8), Ryan Diem (8), Phil Loadholt (7) and Jake Scott (7) have more.

The chart breaks down NFC West false-start penalties by team and position. I filtered out penalties against players from defensive positions, figuring most of those occurred on special teams.

Arizona's offensive line has done a good job avoiding these penalties even though multiple quarterback changes have forced players to learn varied cadences.
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