IRVING, Texas – In the past, Wade Phillips has brushed off questions about penalties, claiming there wasn’t much of a correlation between flags and losses. He wisely didn’t make that case Monday afternoon.
The Cowboys were called for 15 penalties Sunday night, which tied the Jets for the most in the NFL for Week 1. The Redskins accepted 12 of those penalties for 91 yards, including one of the most memorable holding calls in NFL history.
When a penalty prevents the team from celebrating a game-winning touchdown, you pretty much have to acknowledge the problem.
“Those have to be rectified,” Phillips said. “We're going to attack that situation and do better in those areas.”
If that’s the case, the Cowboys are going to have to break a bunch of bad habits.
Penalties didn’t suddenly become a problem for the Cowboys. They just finally cost the Cowboys a game in such a clear fashion that the coach couldn’t deny it.
The Cowboys had the eighth-most penalties called against them in 2007, when they lost 815 yards on 104 infractions. That’s when we first heard Phillips' theory that penalties rarely resulted in losses.
The Cowboys were flagged more than anybody else in the NFL in 2008, losing 952 yards on 119 infractions. The league’s least disciplined team missed the playoffs after entering the season as Super Bowl favorites.
The Cowboys cleaned up the locker room that offseason but only slightly improved in the penalty department in 2009. They were flagged the fourth-most times in the league, losing 892 yards on 115 infractions.
The flags have been flying throughout Phillips’ tenure. It took the blunders of Barron, the most penalized player in the NFL during his career, to force Phillips to finally address the issue.