Defensive players have complained for years that the NFL has continually changed its rules to open things up for offenses. And most of the time, the defensive players had a legitimate complaint. The league has been all about having more scoring to increase television ratings.
At least until this season.
When the NFL made pass interference plays reviewable in replay, the assumption was that it would cause an increase in defensive pass interference calls. The opposite has been true. There have been 110 defensive pass interference calls this season, an average of .909 per game. Last season, there were 249 called, an average of .932 per game. So, defensive pass interference calls are slightly down.
Offensive pass interference penalties?
They're up. Way up, in fact.
There have been 58 called already this season, meaning the league is on pace for 128 offensive pass interference penalties called. There were 85 all of last season. There also have already been 409 holding penalties assessed this season, with another 106 declined. The league said it wanted to put a greater emphasis on calling those penalties this season. Last season, there were 735 assessed and 168 declined. The league is on pace for 903 assessed and 234 declined.
And players aren't happy about it.
"They put emphasis on these things and they get called more. You could call holding on every single play if you really look into it," David DeCastro told me. "I don’t know what you do. I don’t care too much. You try and keep your hands inside and get them out quicker. I don’t know what they’re doing outside with the receivers. It’s a whole different ballgame with the hand fighting and stuff. Where do you stop with that?"
The Steelers' 10 accepted holding penalties is fifth fewest in the NFL. But their five offensive pass interference penalties leads the league. The crazy thing is that they run fewer pick plays than some other teams.
Either way, the offensive penalties hold back scoring. And that goes against everything the league has been about in the past couple of decades.
"The problem is with most of these is are they egregious? Do they affect the play?" DeCastro said. "If he’s on the backside, the guy is not making the tackle anyway. At the point of the tackle, yeah, that’s a real call. They’re smart. They should be able to figure that out. At the end of the day, it’s about money. If you start to (tick) off the fans, ‘What’s up with all of these holding calls?’
"It’s holding up the games, you’ve got a guy like (Tom) Brady tweeting about it, that’s when you’re going to start hopefully seeing things change."