FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots put up big numbers in their preseason win over the Philadelphia Eagles – 476 yards, 35 first downs and nearly 40 minutes in time of possession.
The officials racked up their own impressive statistics by calling 28 penalties, with 21 accepted.
They were merely following through on the NFL’s message that more flags would be thrown for defensive contact with receivers.
It got to a point that Patriots Coach Bill Belichick was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing, in vain, against a penalty on the opponent. The Eagles were called for defensive pass interference even though wide receiver Julian Edelman caught Tom Brady’s long pass.
After New England’s 42-35 win Friday night, a reporter asked Belichick for clarification of the play.
“Yeah,” the usually dour coach said to a roomful of laughter, “I was trying to get it myself.”
Coaches and players will figure it out for themselves the more they practice and play under the new emphasis on giving receivers more space to run their patterns.
“We have to do the best that we can by being comfortable with the new rules and trying to do the right things out there on the field,” Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis said.
There were 11 penalties against the Patriots and 10 against the Eagles – with seven others declined.
Of the 28 penalties called, 15 were against the defense, 12 against the offense and one on an enraged Belichick’s foray onto the field after the pass to Edelman.
“Who knows if it will continue? But they’re calling things pretty tight,” Tom Brady said. “Coach always says, ‘Do business as business is being done.’ So if they’re going to call it tight, you know, we got a few extra opportunities out of it; they got a few extra opportunities out of it. It’s going to be who plays the smartest, I guess.”
On Friday, it was the Patriots.
The Eagles were called for 11 defensive penalties to four for the Patriots, including those declined. Nine of Philadelphia’s were for defensive pass interference, defensive holding, illegal contact or illegal use of the hands.
“I think if they’re helping us, then I don’t have any problem with it,” Brady said.
The Patriots were much sharper than in their 23-6 loss to Washington in their preseason opener. Brady sat that out and New England didn’t score until 1:23 was left in the game.
Brady threw one touchdown pass in his two series, rookie Jimmy Garoppolo had two in playing the rest of the half and Ryan Mallett threw for a touchdown and ran for another while playing the entire second half.
“I thought all three quarterbacks handled themselves pretty well. There weren’t a lot of major problems,” Belichick said.
The Patriots rushed for 250 yards with Jonas Gray, who spent all last season on Baltimore’s practice squad, leading with 98. First-string running back Stevan Ridley started and finished with 45 yards on nine carries.
That helped New England convert 10 of 15 third-down opportunities.
“We were productive for the most part offensively and that’s all 11 guys out there,” Belichick said. “Everybody has to do their job.”
After being outplayed by Garoppolo in the first preseason game, Mallett tightened the competition for the No. 2 job as he enters his fourth NFL season, all with the Patriots. Mallett started against Washington but was the last quarterback to face the Eagles.
“I get to play in the game. That’s all that matters,” he said.
His next chance comes against the Carolina Panthers Friday night. Brady likely will play at least the full first half before his backups take over.
Garoppolo apparently didn’t get much advance notice that he would be the first to follow Brady against Washington.
“They kind of just threw me in there,” he said. “It was kind of a last-minute thing, but you always have to be ready. Whenever the opportunity comes you have to take advantage of it.”