Mike Shanahan’s face turned that special shade of red when Washington Redskins receiver Joshua Morgan threw the football at an opponent in the closing moments of last Sunday’s loss to St. Louis. The outburst pushed the Redskins out of field goal range and extinguished any hope of sending that three-point defeat to overtime.
That magnitude of that moment made Morgan a main focus of the loss. It also put him at the end of a long list.
The Redskins enter Week 3 leading the NFL in penalties. Their 23 penalties for 223 yards easily outdistance Philadelphia, the next worst team, which has 19 for 168. As the Redskins look forward to Sunday’s home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, a game that replacement referees will officiate, more disciplined play is a priority.
“It’s on the person,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “Every person has got to look each other in the eyes and say, ‘We’ve got to get it done. No mental issues, no offsides. If you feel like you’re going to get a holding [penalty], let him go.’ You’ve got to be technique sound.”
The Redskins‘ 11 penalties against St. Louis were committed by 11 different players. Nineteen players have been flagged through two games.
Offensive holding is the Redskins‘ most frequent penalty. It has been called five times against them. Washington, which has played both of its games in a dome on the road, has been penalized four times for false starts.
Shanahan first downplayed the high total when asked about it Wednesday.
“Well, you have to look at the penalties,” he said. “We are a very disciplined football team. There were a number of those calls that shouldn’t have been called and a number of calls that should have been called.”
And that’s true. Both of guard Kory Lichtensteiger’s holding penalties against New Orleans were bogus. Bowen was penalized for offside in the fourth quarter against St. Louis when a Rams’ lineman obviously committed a false start.
Linebacker London Fletcher was flagged for a late hit against the Rams even though receiver Danny Amendola had not stepped out of bounds.
Still, replacement officials are working every game, so it’s not as though the Redskins are at a disadvantage.
The Redskins committed the seventh-fewest fouls in the NFL last season, and they ranked 10th in 2010. Shanahan’s Denver Broncos teams ranked in the top six in the league in four out of five seasons from 2004-08.
“We’ve got to continue to work at it, not have the offside penalties, false starts — things you can control,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “It’s uncharacteristic of us to be the most penalized team.”