NFL officials threw 96 flags for offensive holding in Week 2, the most in a single week since at least the start of the 2012 season. The spike results from a yearlong point of emphasis that has dramatically impacted the start of this season.
The flurry of flags brought this season's two-week total for offensive holding calls to 178, a 66% increase from the same time period last season. It has also powered a 16.2% increase in total penalties compared to Weeks 1-2 of last season, as well as a slight drop in scoring from 21.97 offensive points per game in 2018 to 20.9 in 2019.
The previous high for offensive holding calls in a single week since 2012 was 94, set during a one-week point of emphasis in Week 13 last season. Prior to that, NFL officials did not throw more than 66 flags for offensive holding in a single week.
Historically, penalty spikes level off during the course of the season when they are caused by points of emphasis. In some cases, players and coaches make the adjustment. For offensive holding, the NFL is asking offensive linemen to stop using a technique it calls "lobster blocks," where they wrap their arms around defenders on the backside of runs.
Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who is a member of the coaches subcommittee that recommended the point of emphasis, said last week it was targeted at a handful of teams that were using the technique.
"There are some teams that are just really bad," Zimmer said, "and they just go out there and they grab the linebacker ... or they grab the offensive tackle or the defensive end. ... They wanted to get that out of the game, so they made a point of emphasis on it."
In other cases, the NFL eases away from enforcement to minimize disruption to the flow of the game.
Zimmer said last week that the hope is players drop the technique first.
"I hope it gets corrected," he said. "That's what I hope. I hope teams stop doing it. But if they don't, they should throw the flag. It's cheating."