NFL offensive-holding calls plunge 56% so far in 2020

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“Offensive pass interference is down. Defensive holding is down. Things like that have declined this year.”

It’s not that the actual infractions are occurring less often, Blandino stressed. In fact, there likely will be even more of these rulebook transgressions as the season progresses, whether they’re flagged or unflagged — unless the league’s keeper-of-the-rules, the competition committee (composed of select owners, executives, GMs and head coaches), steps in.

“Offensive linemen didn’t miraculously stop holding,” Blandino said. “It’s just a different penalty standard from where it’s been. If the competition committee is comfortable with that, and the clubs are comfortable with that, then there won’t be any changes. If there is some level of discomfort, then there could be a correction. As it is now, teams have to adjust to a new standard.”

One undeniable effect of the penalty plunge? Scoring is way up — on a record pace. Never before had teams, combined, scored 453 touchdowns or 3,958 points through Week 5, as this season.

Because an offensive holding penalty typically kills a possession, it stands to reason that fewer offence-wobbling infractions means more extended possessions — and the longer any drive lasts, the likelier it is to result in points.

In interviews with Postmedia since 2014, Blandino has insisted that coaches and players are fast to detect such officiating trends, and exploit them. What’s more, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians has said coaches around the league scout that week’s assigned officiating crew nearly as much as they do that week’s opponent. Blandino said teams now are savvy enough to have deduced that if one crew, for instance, threw an uncommonly high number of offensive holding calls last week, it’ll get graded harshly for it by the NFL’s officiating department and — human nature being human nature — it’ll be less likely, as a consequence, to call even the normal number of such infractions this week. Coaches are keen to this.

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