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It's Not The Amount Of Fouls: Penalties That Killed The Bengals Chances Against Cleveland

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Dating back to 2000, the Cincinnati Bengals are averaging 99.2 penalties per season through 2009. They're recorded as many as 114 fouls (2009) in a season, yet we've seen that they can display a level of discipline, recording only 75 flags in 2008. Yes, the 39 penalty swing between 2008 and 2009 is very observant. They are on pace to give up 32 first downs on penalties alone to the opposing offense, which is a pace that would be far and away the highest during Marvin Lewis' tenure.

Against the Browns, the Bengals were flagged for a defensive (Pat Sims) and offensive holding (Andrew Whitworth), offensive (Chad Ochocinco) and defensive pass interference (Dhani Jones), a low block on an interception return (Morgan Trent), unnecessary roughness on Chinedum Ndukwe and a false start on Carson Palmer.

Combined, Cincinnati's penalties gave the Browns three first downs and stalled a drive on offense.

As Kevin Goheen points out with a pinch of my personal flair, it wasn't so much the quantity of the penalties as it was when the penalties happened.

For instance, Sims' defensive holding led to an automatic first down that sustained Cleveland's time-expiring drive that prevented Cincinnati from making a final come back. The pass interference on Dhani Jones (we're assuming face guarding) was on third down, giving the Browns a new set of downs and an eventual touchdown. The personal foul on Chinedum Ndukwe, which was arguably a bad (really, really, really, really bad call), stopped the clock pushing the Browns to the Bengals 17-yard line. With the stopped clock, Cleveland was able to run another offensive play to score a touchdown. They didn't and Phil Dawson converted a 31-yard field goal to give the Browns a three-point half time lead.

Week Opponent Penalties Yards Lost 1st Downs
1 @ New England 2 5 0
2 Baltimore 9 56 1
3 @ Carolina 8 69 4
4 @ Cleveland 8 79 3