Veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has been in the NFL for 11 years and has been on some very talented teams and some very sloppy teams. Last week, Sanders finally looked to begin finding a groove with quarterback Drew Brees in a sloppy game in which the Saints surpassed over eight penalties for the the third straight game this season.
Sanders recently appeared on NFL Network’s Nate Burleson’s podcast, “17 Weeks,” after the Saints’ Week 3 loss to Green Bay. Sanders expressed his frustration about questionable officiating thus far: “I’ve never seen the type of calls their calling on the team over and over and over... Now just being on the sideline it’s weird to see the penalties that happen”.
It has been more then just flags on the Saints its been missed calls against them as well. Sanders added, “Like, I see a running back running down the sideline and I see the cornerback get held and I know the refs see it but they don’t throw it. Sometimes I sit back and analyze like what the heck is going on with these refs”.
Sanders’s frustration is evident, and most Saints fans are having the same frustration with the league officials.
Defensively in 2020, New Orleans leads the league in penalty yards at over 250, with the next-closest not even having cracked the 200-yard threshold. That amounts to approximately a 140-yard gap between the Saints and 2nd-highest team, the New York Jets. Interestingly for Saints fans, the least-penalized team on defense this year is the Los Angles Rams, with under 50 yards of defensive penalties.
nfl defensive penalty yards through 3 weeks. hmm pic.twitter.com/vhjJ7Anbhf— John Sigler (@john_siglerr) September 30, 2020
The Saints defense admittedly has a tendency to grab and pull, but that still doesn’t explain why it seems like almost every 50/50 call appears to go against the Saints. Some of the calls the defense has received have been 100% deserved, but others have been clear as day on the other side. For instance, last week, Malcolm Jenkins tackled Jamaal Williams on a perfectly legal tackle that was ultimately flagged as a horse collar tackle. (See picture below) Jenkins’s hand is clearly under the number “3” on Williams’s jersey. That’s not a horse collar, and the broadcast booth openly criticized the call when it happend.
But that is just one of many that have not gone the Saints way.
Overall the Saints have been called for 24 penalties (2nd most) for 331 yards (most). The next closest team is the Arizona Cardinals with 237 yards, and the Saints nearly have 100 more penalty yards than them. New Orleans also has a league-high, nine defensive pass interference calls, while eight other teams have yet to receive one. Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins both have been called for three DPI a piece, for a total of 100 penalty yards.
But it’s not just about the flags called against the Saints - it’s also about a lack of flags against their opponents, which makes the calls against the Saints seem that much more egregious. It’s not like the Packers played perfectly last week and only warranted the two penalties they received all game. There was also a blatantly obvious intentional grounding call, as well as a push-off from Marcedes Lewis that grave the Packers a touchdown instead of offensive pass interference. Again, both time caused Cris Collinsworth and Mike Tirico in the broadcast booth to openly question the lack of laundry on the field.
For the Saints’ season to get back on track, they need to clean up the sloppy play and put themselves in positions so the officials can’t negatively impact the game. Going all the way back to the NFC Championship “no call” against the Los Angeles Rams, the Saints have been punished by league officials numerus times. It’s one thing for Saints fans to think it’s fishy. It’s another when the Saints coaches call out the poor officiating. And it’s something else too when an 11-year NFL veteran and former Super Bowl champion comes to the New Orleans Saints and immediately recognizes a noticeable difference in officiating.
When will enough be enough?