False Starts And Offensive Holding: Breaking Down Bengals Penalties

FOXBORO MA - SEPTEMBER 12: Anthony Collins #73 of the Cincinnati Bengals and the rest of the bench watch the New England Patriots score another touchdown during the NFL season opener on September 12 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Bengals 38-24. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

+ Penalties. Penalties. Penalties. An offensive holding can stall a momentum-gathering eight-play drive that results in third-and-long. Mostly those situations result in a punt or, at worse, a turnover from a deep pass into eight-man coverages. A false start can be as damaging, considering that the penalties are generally the result from a lack of concentration. Teams will attempt to make up those lost five yards with a dump pass or a run up the gut, getting back on schedule, as Dave Lapham calls it.

A defensive pass interference provides a beautiful gift to the opposing offense that can reach 40-50 yards in penalty yards. Consider that unsportsmanlike penalties, players using the crown of their helmets to make missile-diving hits, are viewed as lesser infractions. The league's most subjective call can dictate the outcome of games, especially when they're called in overtime.

As if we didn't need to point out the obvious, this NFL.com post points out that of the top five most penalized teams, only the Philadelphia Eagles made the playoffs in 2010. What's worse is that a large percentage of the Bengals penalties are false starts and offensive holding calls; penalties that often result in stalled drives. During the team's 2010 season, the 4-12 Cincinnati Bengals committed 100 penalties (10 were declined). Of the 90 accepted penalties, 22 were false starts and 19 were committed offensive holding penalties.

Most infractions by Bengals players in 2010
  Count Declined
Andrew Whitworth 8 1
Bobbie Williams 7 0
Jermaine Gresham 6 2
Michael Johnson 5 0
Andre Smith 5 1
Chad Ochocinco 5 2

Whitworth's eight penalties breaks down like this: three offensive holdings, two false starts and two illegal formations. Bobbie Williams committed five false starts, an offensive holding and a 15-yard face mask.

Dating back to 2003, 42.1% of the team's overall penalties result in an offensive holdings and false starts. A breakdown per season (FS+Holding = False Starts plus offensive holding).

Season Penalties FS+Holding Pct.
2010 90 31 34.4%
2009 114 46 40.4%
2008 75 26 34.7%
2007 90 42 46.7%
2006 92 40 43.5%
2005 110 43 39.1%
2004 103 52 50.5%
2003 107 49 45.8%
  781 329 42.1%

If there's anything to take from this, the Bengals combined offensive holding and false starts reached their lowest percentage against total penalties during the Marvin Lewis era last season. Perhaps the players can work on this somehow during their players-only workouts during the lockout, if they've even identified it as a problem.

  Offensive Holding False Starts
Andrew Whitworth 3 2
Bobbie Williams 1 5
Jermaine Gresham 1 2
Andre Smith 1 3
Kyle Cook 3 1
Reggie Kelly 3 0
Dennis Roland 0 3
Nate Livings 0 2
Anthony Collins 0 0
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