Entering the season, NFL officials visited training camps and conducted question-and-answer sessions with media, discussing different points of emphasis and displaying video evidence of penalties that would be enforced, and why.
One of the points of emphasis was offensive holding.
No lies told about that one.
League-wide, offensive holding has been called 288 times in 63 games this season, an average of 4.6 times per game, and has been accepted 226 times, 3.6 per game. That's up from 2.8 times per game in 2018.
Few teams have been hit harder than the New Orleans Saints, with 11 holding penalties assessed and two declined. Of the top four teams for holding penalties – Jacksonville (15), Washington (13) and Atlanta (10) round out the quartet – only the NFC South Division-leading Saints (3-1) have a winning record. The other three are a combined 3-9.
"I don't know, coming into the year, that any of us expected these numbers or expected a wholesale change, quite honestly," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "We spend a lot of time in the offseason discussing other topics.
"But I think the challenge each week is understanding how the crew is calling it. That's the biggest thing as a league that we need to improve on, is the consistency from crew to crew. That being said, we need to reduce and understand how they're being called currently. We just finished meeting as a team going through some of the penalties. That part of it is going to have to change for us offensively."
The penalties have wiped out several positive plays for New Orleans.
Among them: A 15-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Josh Hill against the Rams was erased by a hold; and against Dallas, holding penalties nullified a 17-yard scramble by Bridgewater, a 6-yard run by Alvin Kamara and a 10-yard reception by Latavius Murray.
"it's not a chemistry issue," Payton said. "Chemistry would be off sides, false start. Holding – those things that we're seeing, that's a technique issue.
"We're in the NFL here. We need to be able to get off on the snap count and execute, without putting ourselves in three out of our 12 drives a game. It's been crazy. It's been ridiculous."
It's been a point of emphasis that, perhaps, the Saints are having to emphasize even more nowadays.