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Bengals led NFL in fewest penalties in 2016

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The Bengals were the NFL’s best team at not committing penalties in 2016. Does that surprise you?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have typically been good at avoiding penalties under Marvin Lewis.

Despite how much negative attention is geared toward guys like Vontaze Burfict for his illegal hits or Dre Kirkpatrick for being too physical with receivers, Lewis has done a solid job of keeping his players from committing penalties, at least in comparison to the rest of the NFL.

In fact, the Bengals finished 2016 with the fewest penalties and penalty yards of all 32 clubs, according to Sport Facts. It also marked one of the biggest turnarounds from the previous season, when Cincinnati finished with the 13th-most penalties and 15th-most penalty yards.

It’s not too bad when you rank in the middle of the league in terms of penalties, but then again, it means you’re prone to have a game or two where penalties prove to be costly...like a certain playoff game.

But Lewis made it clear throughout the 2016 offseason that his team had moved past that and grown because of it, and the way the team avoided penalties in 2016 backs up that claim.

Here are some other factoids from Sport Facts’ report on penalties:

  • The Oakland Raiders led the league in 2016, with 181 flags. (That’s interesting as they were one of the best teams in the league this season.)
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the most improved, going from 165 flags in 2015, to 110 in 2016.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers worsened the most, with only 110 flags in 2015, to 152 flags in 2016. (Maybe the 2016 Wild Card game inspired them to have more penalties.)

However, while not having too many penalties in 2016 was great to see for the Bengals, it didn’t help the team win more games than they should have. The six games they won came by an average of 13 points, so a few extra penalties may not have proven to be the difference in those contests.

And in Cincinnati’s nine losses, the average margin of defeat was 7.6 points. As good as the Bengals were at avoiding penalties, it wasn’t enough to help them win those close games, which they lost more often than not.

Let’s hope the Bengals keep avoiding penalties and also improve on finishing games so the team’s record includes more wins in 2017.