USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Ravens defense has always had the reputation of being one of the hardest hitting units in the league. Unfortunately, they are also one of the most penalized groups in the NFL, but the yellow flags are due to aggressiveness, not dirty play.
A lot of fans around the league consider the Baltimore Ravens a dirty team because of all the penalties they draw on a regular basis. While the Ravens are not the most penalized team in the league, they reportedly do lead the NFL in personal foul penalties, thereby seeming to be overly aggressive.
Baltimore's defense committed 107 penalties during the regular season, 9th most in the league, behind the Indianapolis Colts (128). Surprisingly, the Ravens upcoming opponent, the Denver Broncos, are #2 in the league with 123 penalties. The least penalized defense in the league were the Chicago Bears, with only 78 penalties.
If you were to ask the players themselves, the overwhelming majority would not say the Ravens are a dirty team. They are extremely aggressive, love to hit the opposition, both to make the tackle as well as to leave a message that you will be paying the price for facing this unit. The new NFL rules on hitting defenseless players has resulted in a lot more yellow flags and the Ravens have been nailed by this as much, if not more than any other team. The line between a legal and now illegal hit is a blurry as ever, with seemingly solid shots now resulting in 15-yard penalties.
So often this season, what appeared to be a clean, hard shot was flagged for penalties, extending drives, sometimes at critical points of the game. Even the announcers are getting in on the frustration, voicing their disagreement after seeing the replays time and time again. The players are thoroughly confused and frustrated on how the calls are made, with the officials told that when in doubt, always throw the flag.
Both Ravens safeties, Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, have been hit with flags and fines, with suspensions threatened for future infractions. Both players have gone public with their frustrations on what was considered a penalty and how to avoid them.
As the flags and fines add up, there will come the point that the league office and teams will have to come to some sort of understanding how to keep this part of the game, out of the game. For one team to win or lose a game based on the outcome of a personal foul penalty in such a fast and violent game is and will continue to be a shame.
Hopefully, Saturday's game will not be decided based on the referee's interpretation of a single play by one team or the other. The Ravens are known for their aggressiveness and therefore the officials keep a keen eye on every bit of contact.While this may seem unfair to Ravens fans, the league believes it is doing so in the best interest of the player's safety.
Is the Ravens defense dirty? Absolutely not. But are they aggressive in their style of play? Absolutely. Will they change their style to meet the changing expectations? Probably not. At least not anytime soon. Is that a problem? Perhaps, but this aggressiveness also makes opposing players flinch and hesitate to challenge them in certain situations.
This issue is not going away and until the league, teams, coaches and players have a more consistent enforcement of the rules, the hits will continue to happen and the flags will continue to fly.
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