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Monday, January 13, 2014
Inside Slant: Penalty totals normalize

By Kevin Seifert

Penalties returned to normal levels in the divisional weekend, supporting claims from the NFL's officiating supervisor that no philosophical difference exists between the regular season and the playoffs.

Details are in the chart. You'll see the league was back to about 12 accepted penalties per game this weekend after dipping to 7.8 in the wild-card round.

The breakdown was notable. Referee Peter Morelli, whose regular-season crew called the fewest penalties in the NFL in 2013, had eight penalties accepted in Saturday night's game between the two least-penalized teams in the NFL (the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots). The other three games, however, each had 13 or 14 accepted penalties.

In a cross-sports sense, fans and observers often believe officials "let 'em play" in the playoffs. In some isolated instances, that could be the case. But here's what Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, said in his weekly informational video last week:

"The direction is no different than the direction during the regular season. We talk about with the officials [that] we want them to call the game the same way. I know fouls were down [wild-card] weekend, but again, the direction is the same. We want them to call the game the same way.

"All year, we told our officials, don't be overly technical. We don't want them to call ticky-tack fouls. We want to make sure that fouls are there, and we're getting flags down when they are there, and not letting teams take advantage and push the envelope. That has been the direction all year and will continue to be the direction during the postseason."

This weekend's conference championship games include the NFL's most-penalized team in the regular season, the Seattle Seahawks (128 accepted penalties). The Denver Broncos tied for the fourth most (115); the San Francisco 49ers were tied for the 11th most (102); and the Patriots were No. 31 with just 68 accepted penalties.