NFL officials are calling penalties at a record pace this year.
And the Ravens have seen their fair share of the yellow laundry thrown their way through the first five games. The trouble with penalties was evident last week against Cleveland when the Ravens were flagged 12 times for a total of 98 yards, which gave the Browns opportunities to keep drives alive.
"It's not helpful," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "We're not advocating penalties. It's not something that we want to see."
The penalties that clearly irked Harbaugh were the offsides calls on his defense. Outside linebackers Jason Babin, Za'Darius Smith and Elvis Dumervil were all called for offsides. The penalties on Smith on Babin came on the same drive in the fourth quarter, which put the Browns in manageable down-and-distance situations, and Cleveland capitalized with a go-ahead touchdown.
"The ones that were most hurtful were the offsides, where we lined up in the neutral zone, twice in the same drive," Harbaugh said. "That was unfathomable."
Babin was also penalized for illegal use of hands, which gave Cleveland an automatic first down after the Ravens had stopped them on third down. Cleveland scored a touchdown two plays later. The Ravens cut Babin Tuesday.
Another costly penalty came in the second quarter when defensive end Lawrence Guy was called for roughing the passer, which wiped off an interception by cornerback Lardarius Webb. The Ravens led 14-3 at the time, and the interception would have given them the ball in Cleveland territory with a chance to take a three-score lead.
Harbaugh clearly disagreed with the call at the time as the TV cameras showed him arguing with the officiating crew, and he explained that the issue is with how the league has informed teams about the criteria for those calls.
"We're going to try to figure out how to coach that differently somehow. When the league can explain to us what they want, we'll get it coached differently," Harbaugh said. "We'll do a better job of that somehow."
When asked about the penalties again on Wednesday, Harbaugh went through some of them individually to point out the issues. He said that the hands to the face call on Babin could have gone either way, and he also said that the special teams holding calls on Tray Walker and Zach Orr were justified.
"Tray Walker's was ridiculous. You tackle the guy basically in front of the returner," Harbaugh said. "The Zach Orr one was bad too. He pulled the guy late because he set up too deep and got pushed. Those are technique issues."
The Ravens have been called for 42 penalties this year, which is tied for sixth most in the NFL. Those penalties have accounted for a total of 368 yards, fifth most in the league.
The penalties have given opponents 12 first downs.
Improving on the number of penalties is a nuanced task for the coaching staff because it's sometimes difficult to draw a trend between them. Some penalties deal with technique, while others are the result of player discipline.
Harbaugh and his staff are taking a hard look at all the options to find ways to cut down on the calls.
"You look at them one penalty at a time and you try to coach through them," Harbaugh said. "Some of them are the cost of doing business, some of them are tough, technique penalties, and some of them are inexcusable penalties. We look at all of them."