Coach Bill Belichick hopes to answer some questions about his team in the Patriots' third preseason game game on Friday night against the Panthers. But one issue the coach has no control over is the sudden increase in penalty flags resulting from the league's crackdown on illegal contact and defensive holding. It's led to a a substantial increase in flags thrown and it's left defensive backs wondering exactly how they're going to make it through the regular season.
That includes Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner, who arrived this offseason from Seattle, one of the NFL's best and most physical defenses.
"It was surprising how many flags they actually did throw," he said, via ESPN.com. "Some, I think, could be ticky-tack; there’s a lot of hand-fighting going on down the field with receivers and DBs all the time. They said they were going to do it and they did it. ... It’s just a part of the game. As a cornerback, it will have me more focused and in-tune with hand position and things like that, to tighten up my craft.”
Browner doesn't think the new emphasis on the old rules is a reaction to the Seahawks' defense manhandling of the Broncos' offense in last February's Super Bowl.
"I think every year they say that’s the emphasis. Last year, I know that’s what they told us going into the year," he said. "It will be interesting to see how lenient or how tough they’ll be on those calls once the regular season starts. ... Hopefully, in the regular season they don't call as many, but if they do, we just have to take emphasis on getting our hands right and the placement. Try to reduce the penalties, because those things can cost you a big game somewhere along in the season."
Browner also can't imagine that officials will continue to call penalties at the same rate during the regular season.
“I think it’s only a three-hour slot and window to play a football game, or else 'The Simpsons' are going to cut in, and the game might just cut off in the third quarter," Browner joked.