Penalties for holding in the NFL fell to their lowest point in a Week 1 regular season in at least 20 seasons, an unexpected drop that was notable on the opening weekend of the 2020 calendar.
Officials threw 18 handkerchiefs to hold around the league, down 78 percent from Week 1 of the 2019 season and 58 percent from the five-year average from 2014 to 2018, according to ESPN Stats & Information. .
Although it helped the continued development of the games and the quality of the same after an abbreviated training camp and the cancellation of the preseason, the trend is seen as part of an attempt over the last few years to calibrate what, annually, is a of the punishments that most damage the quality of the matches.
The process began in Week 3 of the 2018 season, when the NFL instructed officials to more rigorously dial certain blocking techniques that were previously unpunished. The result was an increase from week to week to 94 penalties for holding, the most in a week since ESPN has data on the matter.
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The trend resumed at the start of the 2019 season, when the league emphasized sanctioning various techniques, including the “lobster block.” Handkerchiefs to be held rose to record numbers in the first two weeks of that season, jumping 66 percent from 2018. There were 178 penalties for that violation in 64 games, including 82 in 32 games.
In the current season, the pendulum initially swung in the other direction. The previous lowest figure in Week 1 was 26 penalties for holding in 2001, the year ESPN began recording data on penalties. As a result, there were only 199 handkerchiefs in Week 1, including those that were rejected or voided for other penalties, the second-lowest total since Week 1 of 2001. While players may have improved their techniques and skills lock since the end of last season, the change presents the same characteristics as at other key points in the process.
“Officials are good soldiers,” said John Perry, ESPN referee analyst. “They listen to the message and act on what they were instructed to do. At this level, they are that good. Whatever the order, this is how they will run the game. “