BOSTON (CBS) — In case somehow you hadn’t heard, the NFL is cracking down on defense this year, with officials placing an “extra emphasis” on enforcing illegal contact, defensive holding and pass interference penalties.
It relates especially to the Patriots, because they spent their offseason focusing on defense, particularly in acquiring Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to man the two spots at cornerback. Both like to get physical — Browner more so than Revis — and in theory, an emphasis on illegal contact penalties would spell trouble for the New England secondary.
To that, Tony Massarotti says phooey. He wants the Patriots defense to play tougher, stronger and with more intimidation than the D has had for the past decade.
“Here’s what I would say as far as Browner and Revis are concerned on this rule change, and there’s been a lot of speculation about it here, and how it’s going to impact these guys,” Mazz said. “Do you know what I’d do if I’m Bill Belichick? Nothing. Nothing. Let them beat the crap out of receivers all year long. The referees want to throw 20 flags a game? Let ’em. That’s what I say.”
Michael Felger challenged Mazz: “So you want them taking five-yard illegal contact penalties on third-and-7?”
“I am telling you,” Mazz explained, “that I would rather have them playing with a level of physicality and getting penalties than not playing with a level physicality, because the [latter] doesn’t work. We’ve seen it.”
Mazz had a lot more than just his feelings in this argument. He also brought some facts.
“Who was the most penalized team last year?” he asked. “Seattle — defensively and overall, and they had more pass interference calls than any team in the league. And you know what? I’d live with that.”
“How about the year before, who was the most penalized team in the league? Baltimore — won the Super Bowl. Same, two years in a row.”
“Stat of the day!” Felger quickly exclaimed.
“In Seattle’s case, they were number one in penalties called and they were number three in penalty yards,” Mazz said. “Baltimore was number one in both. So not only are they having the most calls against them; they’re also having the most significant penalties called against them, which are personal foul and pass interference.”
Mazz’s roll continued.
“Those are yardage penalties. So on defense, how do you get personal foul penalties? By lighting someone up, by being physical,” he said. “So you know what? I’m taking it. I’m fine with it. I’ve decided this. I have reconciled this issue. I want the Patriots to beat the crap out of people when they’re on defense, and if it means PI and it means illegal contact and it means personal foul, I will take them all.”
“They’re giving up the yards anyway, what’s the difference?” Felger chimed in. “You lay off ’em, you give ’em all that room, the teams have picked the Patriots apart the last five years to begin with, without taking penalties and with being disciplined. So you’re giving up the yards anyway … give the guy a crack, you’ll still give up the 15 yards, but the next time … ”
“Maybe it’s in his head,” Mazz finished.
“I would rather them line people up and beat the crap out of them and get called for penalties than to have what has happened here over the last four or five years, because the defense they’ve been playing is a joke. I would rather them — muggery, thuggery, call it whatever you want — I want them beating the crap out of people at the line of scrimmage, and if it gets flags, it gets flags.”
Listen to the full discussion, with more data on the last five Super Bowl champions’ ranking in penalties, below: